On Wednesday night Caleb and I watched The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It was released in 2007 and only recently came out on DVD. We'd had it in our Netflix queue for a month, but due to its high demand, we had to wait a while before there was a disc available for our viewing pleasure.
Ten minutes into the movie I began to worry that I would be bored, that the movie would be slow and long and boring (we checked the playing time before it started .... 2 1/2 hours!). But as it got going, I found myself enthralled. It was like watching someone's imagination as they're being told a story.
First of all, I must mention that the cinematography was fantastic, and it gets a full 5 stars from me. It was at times dreamlike, with fuzzy edges and a creative use of motion. It used mostly available light (as opposed to artificial lighting of scenes), which gave things a slightly more "real" feel. If you watch this movie for no other reason, watch it for the cinematography. It gets 5 stars from me.
Second, I am not what I presume is a "typical Brad Pitt fan." But he did an excellent job at portraying an almost-crazy Jesse James, who had to have been haunted by the men he'd killed, his near-death experiences, and the constant paranoia that he would be found out, caught, even killed. He was most wary of his own band of outlaws, knowing the reward for turning him in was tempting. Brad Pitt truly impressed me. He gets 5 stars.
Thirdly, and still on the acting note, Ben Affleck's little brother Casey certainly earned that Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Robert Ford. Bob was obsessed with Jesse James, had a collection of all the dime novels written about him, had collected so much data on Jesse James he knew his shoe size and every small thing they had in common. Casey played this somewhat creepy idolization and obsession perfectly, its subtlety leaving you feeling a little uncomfortable about Bob. As they begin riding together, and their odd friendship remains tense, by the time Bob shoots his lifelong hero, it seems logical. Casey definitely gets 5 stars.
Fourthly, the movie played out almost like a documentary, complete with narration which filled in the blanks of the scenes and acts of the play. I liked, too, that it went on to tell about what happened to Bob after he killed Jesse, how he became famous first, and then eventually known as a coward. The movie closes only after Bob's story is played out, and there is definite closure to these sad lives. Story gets 5 stars.
Though the movie held to its somewhat slow pace, in the end it was perfectly suited to the story it told. Its a fascinating story, one I think was told quite well told through what I had thought would be a waste of my evening.
It is rated R, mostly for bits of startling and strong violence, so I can't recommend the movie freely. But if things like that don't bother you so much, its worth a watch, surprisingly so.
28 March 2008
Posted by hjw at 11:51 AM