The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Maui Time | September 24, 2007
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

New Zealand director Andrew Dominik (“Chopper”) tells the story of Jesse James’s last days with a patient and unequivocal style that makes us want to turn back history. Based on the 1983 novel by Ron Hansen, Dominik presents a sparse western stripped down to its barest elements. The 34-year-old Jesse James (brilliantly played by Brad Pitt) attempts to settle down with his wife (Mary-Louise Parker) and children under the alias of Thomas Howard, but is unable to escape his celebrity as America’s popular train robber. Jesse’s least intelligent follower is Bob Ford (Casey Affleck), the younger brother of trusted James Gang member Charley (Sam Rockwell). Casey Affleck gives an outstanding performance that proves him to be a character actor of immense creativity and composure. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (“In the Valley of Elah”) utilizes a “big sky” image system as formally composed chapter breaks to seamlessly magnify the story’s epic qualities. Intermittent voice-over narration is the single element that keeps perfection at bay in this highly original addition to the western genre.

Rated R, 160 mins. (A-)

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