Westerns is a genre I'm torn about. While many great films have been born out of them (High Noon, The Searchers) there's so much crap that's produced I can't handle. Whether it be overrated pulp (Tombstone, anything starring Clint Eastwood) or just corn (most John Wayne films) Hollywood hardly goes for originality in these period pieces as most audiences have come to love the formula of shoot em ups and seem to despise anything that doesn't involve a lot of action.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an intimate biopic of both the infamous outlaw and the man who killed him. Set in the later years of the James-Younger gang, Ford, a admirer of Jesse, joins up in hopes to go on many adventures robbing various 'union' banks and trains. Almost obsessed with Jesse's fame, Ford tries to become his closest companion. He's always studying his moves and motives and going over his collection of James memorabilia he collected as a child. Soon Ford sees who the real James is and is upset to see his delusions of the media image crumble before him.
For those unfamiliar with the old west and if you haven't figured out how it's going to end I suggest you read the title a little more closely.
While Pitt does a good job portraying the younger James as a paranoid loose cannon Casey Affleck's performance is amazing. The rest of the cast is great as well. The dialogue has an authentic feel to it and the photography is absolutely incredible. With sometimes haunting music almost all the elements are outstanding.
That's not to say it's not without flaws. The second act is slowly paced and if it wasn't for the visuals I would find the lack of editing frustrating. The theme of celebrity culture is apparent within the first ten minutes and is repeated over and over again to the point you just want to yell at the scream "look I get it".
The movie is hard to recommend, because I doubt a lot of you will like it. Like it's overlong title the movie has a lengthy run time of over 2 hours and has little action. You will not see much gunplay as you would expect from a western and to most viewers that's a serious setback. Talky and slow it almost feels similar to a Malick film.
All that being said I really enjoyed it for the reasons already mentioned. If you prefer to leave your brain at the door and just be dazzled by special effects and/or if you still think Will Smith is entertaining this movie is not for you. Enjoy the next episode of your favorite reality show instead.
Thanks to Sarebeth and Scituate for submitting this. Wanna see a film reviewed by Wiwille? Drop me an email or comment and you'll see it soon on Erik's Ramblings. Rules are posted here.
"This is the kind of picture that isn't afraid to put its characters under a microscope, and it knows that studying their psychology is far more rewarding than studying their gun-slinging skills," - Mike McGranaghan