Movie Review on DVD – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

For a Western, there aren’t a lot of shoot outs, scooping up screaming women, or “high noon” type talk. “Assassination” is more original than that. In fact, it doesn’t much resemble a Western genre movie at all. It’s about obsession over a celebrity. A common word I’ve read in other reviews is “haunting.” I can’t think of any better a word to describe the lives that Ford and James lived. It’s as if Jesse James read the title of the movie and just accepted his fate. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck star as the fated duo and they take us through a different side of the infamous Jesse James’ life.

- Casey Affleck – we see Ford go from trip-over-yourself, star struck fan to drunk, “what did I do” guilt riddled adult and semi celebrity himself (“semi” being the key word). There is something slightly pathetic about Ford and how he works his way into James’ life. Ford is strategic about getting close and remaining close to his idol and you can see it in Affleck’s expressions as he looks on at Pitt.

- The Cinematography – A common element that is mentioned in just about every review I’ve read. Its recognition is much deserved because the film is beautiful watch. There are effects such as blurring the edges of the screen and leaving the center clear that create an old timey mood as well as the illusion of an insider looking in. This creativity is admirable and in a different way than the admiration for the teams that create such images as the Transformers. Both images are remarkable, but there’s just something about the simplicity of the blurring visual technique that grabs me more than a giant robot.

- Did Jesse See the Movie Title? - As mentioned above, it’s as if James read the title of the movie. He even relates a story to star struck Ford about a fellow who seemed to overly admire James but really wanted to kill him.

- As reviewer Sean O'Connell points out ““Jesse James” rightfully becomes the Robert Ford story.” And I completely agree. The point is to see why Robert Ford shoots James in the back and not in some more dignified, dramatic fashion. It tries to show why he would kill James at all. These questions and more arise as we see the path the outlaws take to their inevitable futures.

- A Different Look at a Legend – When you think of Jesse James you think of train robberies, innocent victims, Wanted posters, etc. But after this movie more is added to the mental image of the bandit. He loved his wife and children. He was smart and knew who his friends and enemies were (or going to be). It’s a fascinating “day in the life” type look at a myth.

- Going Beyond – The film goes beyond Jesse’s death. It is revealed how Ford led a life after he murdered his hero, his idol, his icon. Guilt sets in, he starts to miss the man. He attempts to justify and explain himself by touring in a play about the murder. The narration at the end of the movie is the best part, “There would be no eulogies for Bob, no photographs of his body would be sold in sundries stores, no people would crowd the streets in the rain to see his funeral cortege, no biographies would be written about him, no children named after him, no one would ever pay twenty-five cents to stand in the rooms he grew up in. The shotgun would ignite, and Ella Mae would scream, but Robert Ford would only lay on the floor and look at the ceiling, the light going out of his eyes before he could find the right words.” Summing up the emptiness, the patheticness that was Robert Ford and how he so lamely killed the most notorious outlaw.

- Time – It’s waaaay too long! It took me two days to watch, not because its 48 hours long, but because it was difficult to dedicate a lot of one day to watching the whole thing.

- Subtitles – Yes, it is in English, but the accents are very strong and therefore I had to enable the subtitle button on my remote.

- Getting Lost – Within the extra moments, none that are horribly acted or poorly written, just excessive, your attention wonders. So audiences may feel like they get lost within this film.

It’s worth renting or ordering on Demand. This is a perfect example of what film making, acting, cinematography, script writing and the like is all about. It’s not CG robots or making a sequel for the profit, it’s telling a story. A tale of a haunting life as a celebrity and how, even back in that time, people were fascinated by fame.

“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.

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