The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Like it’s name, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford will be misunderstood as being too long, too historical or too boring. If you ever read a review that uses the word boring to completely discredit a movie without any explanations why, you should probably stop reading. What I saw in this movie, was a masterpiece of excellent acting, stunning visuals and incredible pacing. The strong points within are the interactions and dialogue amongst everyone involved. There were times when I was forced to turn on subtitles due to Brad Pitt’s accent being a bit slurred and low but the facial expressions, the revelations and the exchanges seemed so genuine, it felt more like a play than a movie (this is a complement). Characters frequently say the wrong thing, show their lack of culture and intelligence by misunderstanding things and even stumble over their own words the way a real conversation sometimes occurs. There aren’t any great monologues of perfect writing and prose, nor is their gentlemanly exchanges from the perfect cowboys. This is what makes the writing so good, the outlaws talk the way you would expect them to – like real people.
The shining light in this movie are the main three actors in Brad Pitt, Sam Rockwell and Casey Affleck. When these three men are onscreen together you are treated with a high dosage of real acting and for me this is what made it so enjoyable. Bob Ford (Casey Affleck) is a kid who adores and worships the legendary Jesse James (Brad Pitt). Growing up reading and collecting the storybooks, newspapers and stories that chronicles his hero’s life, he dreamed of being like the outlaw but lived the reality of an average boy in a period when being famous was a courtesy afforded only to a chosen few. After joining the James gang with his brother Charley Ford (Sam Rockwell) and friend Dick Liddil (Paul Schneider) he tries in vain to show his quality to Jesse’s brother Frank James (Sam Shepard) who shoos him away very much like everyone in his life. Finding his hero Jesse to be a more approachable and charming individual, he latches on to the outlaw and turns his admiration into an obsession that ultimately ends fatally.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an enlightening look on the lives of Robert Ford, Jesse James and the friendship that led to Jesse being shot in the back of his head within his own home. While history looks on Robert Ford as a coward who saw his end unceremoniously in a bar fight after killing a hero of the Confederacy, the movie shows him as a kid who saw an opportunity, exploited it and received ridicule where he expected applause. Please don’t be fooled by the cowboy hats and the six shooters on the sides of the cowboys in the pictures you see. This is a character movie, an intelligent movie, if it’s shootouts, gun-slinging and violence you seek, then this is not the one to see. I highly recommend this movie to fans of great character development and history. It is highly underrated but an example of excellent writing, directing and mostly acting.