Monday, December 23, 2013

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford review

Sam Rockwell is good in literally everything. Everything.
Recently I've been hearing a lot about how good this film is. There was a revival screening in New York and some of my favorite critics to read were doing re-reviews praising it. It's written and directed by Andrew Dominik, who wrote/directed last years Killing Them Softly (also with Brad Pitt). I really enjoyed Killing Them Softly, and because I'm watching a lot of westerns this month, I thought this would be a great movie to review. And I think I'm right. The story is a very well done, and almost heartbreaking in a way. Young Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) has always idolized the outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt). He's kept dime novels telling of James' escapades under his bed for years, constantly reading them. He collects other memorabilia relating to Jesse and the James gang. Ford wants nothing more than to be a member of the James gang. Soon, it seems like he may get his chance. But Robert gets involved in police work and starts to question whether Jesse James is the man he thought he was. Ultimately leading to what the title told you will happen.  Now regardless of everything, let me get it out of the way right now and tell you that The Assassination of Jesse James is the most beautiful western, possibly even most beautiful film, I've ever seen. Roger Deakins should have won the Oscar he was nominated for for cinematography. The shots are utterly astounding.I don't want to sound too corny with saying that but this truly is a breathtaking film to look at. This could be a poorly written, poorly acted, and generally ridiculous film, but the cinematography would still make it worth the watch. Granted, it is a well written, well acted, and generally awesome film that also has mind blowing cinematography and camera work. It's no perfect movie though. At times I was riveted and even entertained by this film. At other times I felt quite bored, and it started to really drag. But that was only occasionally. Most of the time though, I was in love with Jesse James (the movie, not the person). Dominik uses this novel-style narration for the movie that really works well. Especially against Deakins' beautifully filmed backdrop. I remember thinking how great Andrew Dominik was when I watched Killing Them Softly, now I know that this guy is going places. The performances here are great too. Brad Pitt is more than capable to no one's surprise. Pitt may be the biggest name here but Casey Affleck is the real star. Casey Affleck blew me away as Robert Ford. No wonder the guy got an Oscar nod for this! I've seen Affleck in some other stuff like Good Will Hunting and the Ocean's movies, but never like this. He really shows the pain Ford felt of being overshadowed by his older brother and how all he wanted was to be like Jesse James. Affleck portrays Robert Ford with the perfect mix of sad rejection, want for fame, and anger for everyone. Who knew Ben Affleck's brother had such acting talent? Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, and the always great Sam Rockwell give some good supporting roles (especially Rockwell). Many westerns focus more on a journey, or the violence, or some needless plot point. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford focuses on the characters and their emotions, the weather and the landscapes, and so much more. This is a much more thoughtful and articulate western than many I've seen. This isn't The Lone Ranger my friends. Westerns are declining in popularity already, and the fact that this was much more different then what people thought it would be, are probably the reasons this movie did so poorly commercially when it was released. It's really a shame considering how damn good this film actually is. If you haven't seen this, I urge you to immediately. Even though you already know the ending. I don't want to say this is my favorite western of all time, but I don't want to say it's not either. After a couple more viewings, I can say this may find it's way unto my favorite of all time list. Also, Roger Deakins' cinematography. That guy is great. He shot Prisoners, Skyfall, and some other stuff and is always astounding. Just see the movie. Happy Viewing guys, and if I don't see ya, Happy Holidays! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at if you haven't already.                


  1. The whole cast is amazing, but it's Dominik who comes out on top, showing that he has a wonderful sense of pacing where everybody gets a shot to do their own thing, even if they aren't particularly likable in any which way. Nice review Whit.

    1. Thanks! He did a fantastic job, really liked it.