Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (AJJ) does exactly as it says on the tin, but does so in a truly spellbinding way. The film charts the final days of Jesse James’ life (Brad Pitt) following his last train robbery, his descent into paranoia & depression and finally his murder by Bob Ford (Casey Affleck) who has ingratiated himself into Jesse’s gang before his ultimate betrayal. Brad Pitt is as excellent as he usually is, but it is Casey Affleck’s performance that stands out. He really nails the nervous determination of Robert Ford; in the scene just before he kills Jesse he looks truly terrified as if he’s about to throw up. Surrounding these two main players are an impressive support cast including Sam Rockwell and Jeremy Renner.

Robert’s character is quite an interesting one; rather than being a coward, as the youngest member of the James gang, he is butt of all the jokes and never taken seriously. It is this insecurity and desire to prove himself that drives him to murder Jesse. This is despite the fact that he worships Jesse. For years Robert has collected comics of the adventures of Jesse, and at one point Jesse says to him that he doesn’t know if he wants to be just like him or to be him. There is never any mention of the fact that he could be gay, but the way he constantly glances at Jesse certainly raises that possibility. Actually Robert is no less cowardly than Jesse himself, as during his descent into paranoia Jesse takes an ex gang member “for a ride” and shoots him in the back!

The movie is beautiful, really stunning. Andrew Dominik’s direction is sweeping, yet simple; and the cinematography by Roger Deakins is as amazing as usual and gives the film an epic feel. The pace is slow, but perfect for the film, and a shorter run-time would make everything feel very rushed. Complementing the bleak, melancholic feel the film has is the beautifully haunting, lugubrious soundtrack composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who bring an incredible atmosphere to the film. These are the guys who composed the soundtrack to The Road, so you can imagine the ambience, but the AJJ soundtrack is easier to listen to. For those with Spotify: Jesse James

A really interesting film, with amazing scenery, great cast, beautiful music and tremendous atmosphere.