Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007) Film Review
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Reviewed by: Chris
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford is a slow-moving western. This in itself is unusual – westerns tend to be action pieces. The denouement is given away in the title, so there is no waiting to see how it will end. Instead, we are invited to spend over two and half hours examining the whys and wherefores. These are fairly involved but not inscrutable: Jesse James is hero-worshipped (almost homoerotically) by the rather limp-wristed Robert Ford. Robbie joins the big man’s band of bad guys, eventually gets pissed off, and ends up shooting him in the back. End of story.
It is one of those films billed as ‘a psychological study’. Indeed, apart from some very nice photography, there is little else to study. Fortunately, Casey Affleck is up to the job and managed to make me squirm with every softly-delivered phrase. Jesse (Brad Pitt), on the other hand, is macho, tough and straight (at least as low-down dirty, thievin’, murderin’ crooks go). And Jesse is brave. Robbie isn’t. But Robbie would like the fame and adulation that goes with being brave.
It is films like this that make Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys so hilarious. What do men, with strong sexual urges, with no women, and cooped up with each other for hours and months in the wild west, do? Well, they discover their inner gay and have sex. Simple. So write a love story where sex just isn’t gonna happen and you get enough psychoses to spin a nice yarn, some highly dysfunctional lives (it’s based on a true story), or nearly three hours in the cinema.
Pitt calls the film an ‘anatomy of an assassination'. On that level, it is quite effective and recalls many a film noir where we have to work out why the victim was really killed. It’s also a good example of how a common criminal can get to be portrayed as a dashing rogue – a persona many murderers, from serial killers to perpetrators of high-school massacres, possibly buy into. If this is a plus point of the film, the documentary-like way it is shot adds much. Great effort has gone into making even small details as authentic as possible and we genuinely feel as if we are glimpsing through a window into history. But I suspect that not everyone will have the patience to sit at this particular window that long.
There is much to admire in this movie. Great acting, wonderful cinematography, and an eye for realism. But frankly, I’m pleased he shot him. Another hour and I would want to shoot them both.Reviewed on: 16 Feb 2008