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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Brad Pitt
Casey Affleck
Sam Shepard
Mary-Louise Parker
Jeremy Renner
Paul Schneider
Sam Rockwell
Zooey Deschanel.
Directors
Andrew Dominik.
Screenwriters
Robert Hansen.
Running Time
160 minutes

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The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
The good, the bad and the ridiculously handsome.


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Plot
As his gang and legend begin to fragment, train-robber and outlaw Jesse James (Pitt) is a haunted man. He can feel his death approaching, but can he foresee that fringe gang-member Robert Ford (Affleck) will be the man to pull the trigger?


Review
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
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Long of gestation, long of length, and throat-dryingly long of title (word of mouth will require a deep breath), Brad Pitt’s new Western has likely left perplexed studio execs somewhat long in the face. They were surely banking on a sassy gunslinger, with Mr. Jolie whirling his Colt like a majorette. What the Australian director of Chopper, Andrew Dominik - in only his second movie - has delivered is a slow, meditative poem that harkens to the verdant sprawl of Terrence Malick’s Days Of Heaven. Thrill-seekers may want to apply elsewhere.

Dominik is cultivating a not-unfamiliar revisionist evocation of America’s formative days. Even if it doesn’t resonate across an entire career like Unforgiven, it shares that film’s contemplative power and unmaking of myth. Even if it isn’t as thrusting as McCabe & Mrs. Miller, it shares its sepia-hued authenticity and indistinct morality. Even if it isn’t as ironic and outrageous as the Spaghettis, it too is something to do with death. And even if it isn’t as squib-splattering as Peckinpah, it answers to his elegiac heart. This
is the Western as psychological landscape, where unheroic souls drift toward divided destinies.

The source is Ron Hansen’s fictional recreation of the chaotic events that brought James-gang-hopeful Robert Ford (Affleck) to shoot his iconic leader in the back as he dusted the frame of a picture. Dominik faithfully matches the book’s shapelessness: like the messy throes of history it is made up of shards and slivers, strands of plot that loosely knot together. But beneath this rambling, talkative style - nudged onward by a lyrical narration from an uncredited storyteller - can be felt the inexorable drift towards the assassination, towards death.

To fulfil his mordant vision, Dominik hired Coens regular Roger Deakins to paint a melancholic beauty of weather-swept horizons and desolate farmhouses in post-Civil War Kansas and Missouri. Apart from the crystalline blue of Pitt’s eyes, the film appears drained of true colour, to be left bronze and faded like those haunting daguerrotypes of frock-coated gents beneath whose glazed expressions hid murder. The sensation is one of a spell or dream. It never gathers momentum like a thriller, yet the menace
is inescapable as scenes travel disturbing and unpredictable paths. Any gunfire is scarce and  unpleasantly vindictive, while the only outlawry we witness is a brutal night-time train robbery that frames the gang as no more than wanton thieves. Dominik is seeking the point at which history, populated by tearaways and psychopaths, translates into folklore. What creates mythology out of dastardly killers?

As an actor, Pitt is most effective stalking the fringes of sanity - see how the jangling nerves of Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club made him luminous - so he is fittingly cast as Jesse James. Both are men unable to calculate the full meaning of their celebrity, another of the film’s preoccupations. James parses his notoriety in newspapers and observes the edgy devotion of his gang, especially Ford, but keeps a distance from reality as if he has one eye on the hell to come. When Pitt loosens the hinges a fraction, out spills a gurgling, terrifying laugh like a death knell. It is arguably the most nervy and effective thing he has ever done.

Yet the honour of lead falls to  Affleck as the strangely juvenile, certainly unstable sap Robert Ford. In the murky folds of his prickly 19 year-old mind, hero-worship (there is just a tease of homoeroticism) of James has become garbled with an idea of establishing his own fame. Affleck brilliantly gives life to this oddball weakling born for humiliation yet desperate for significance - the echoes of Lee Harvey Oswald and Mark Chapman must be intentional. “You know what I expected?” recalls Ford, long after the titular event has left him reviled and desolate. “Applause.” It isn’t morality that divides the likes of James and Ford; it is PR.


Verdict
An extraordinary and visionary study of a legendary murderer’s famous fate, within touching distance of Oscars.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Empire Star Rating

RE: Wow

L: Scabby Really enjoyed the film but felt it needed to be longer, especially towards the end (Although, I was watching it at work and so I had frequent breaks to serve customers), also felt the narration in places was not needed in certain areas of the film, noteably when Ford is going through James' bedroom when he is off at church. Great film though, Affleck and Pitt were superb as was most of the supporting cast. Would be keen to see a directors cut in the future. here is apparen... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by richCie at 21:55, 21 December 2008 | Report This Post


Overated

I was hoping for a Deadwood on the big screen, but got dead boring! A struggle to get through. Yeah its well acted, yeah some of it looks great, but it ended up being a clock watcher. I like my westerns slightly more traditional. This is a western in the vain of the war film The Thin Red Line for me, I was not keen on that either, surprise surprise. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rokmabisniz at 22:20, 20 December 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Gorgeous

Only just finished watching the blu ray I bought well over a month ago. Absolutely magnificent. Didn't think I'd like it (I'd rather listen to Lovejoy call people cocksuckers in Deadwood than long, lingering poetry) but was just stunned at the sheer beauty of its script, pacing, camera work and monumental acting (Casey A... you can't believe someone so fucking talented shares the same genes with Ben Affleck).   Can't see myself repeat watching something this long and somber i... More

Posted by DanCurley at 19:44, 19 December 2008 | Report This Post


Gorgeous

Affleck's performance comes out of nowhere and kicks you in the balls its so good. Pitt is also on top form proving he's not just a pretty face, and never has been. Beautifully shot too. A little long but that's a minor complaint. One of this year's best films. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 12:34, 22 November 2008 | Report This Post


An incredible cinematic achievement, even at 160 minutes long it never over stays its welcome and it never becomes dull. Exceptional acting from all the cast, beautiful photography, a haunting score and a film that is actually about something. A western with a twist. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 20:31, 30 September 2008 | Report This Post


Classy Film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hamsterwalt at 17:05, 25 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Wow

Really enjoyed the film but felt it needed to be longer, especially towards the end (Although, I was watching it at work and so I had frequent breaks to serve customers), also felt the narration in places was not needed in certain areas of the film, noteably when Ford is going through James' bedroom when he is off at church. Great film though, Affleck and Pitt were superb as was most of the supporting cast. Would be keen to see a directors cut in the future. ... More

Posted by Scabby at 17:12, 15 September 2008 | Report This Post


Wow

Wow is indeed all i can say after watching this film! Casey Afflecks incredible acting kept me going throughout the entire film. It's Roberts and Jesses releationship which is one of the most beautiful pieces of film i have witnessed. 5 stars for the cinematography - it was incredible. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lettielovesgary at 23:39, 31 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE: The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

mad movie, really good all around.  It had great performances from casey affleck and brad pitt, aswell as sam rockwell.  This movie, surprisingly, was better than i thought, considering the lack of and sort of hype.  It got mostly good reviews, but still, there was no hype to it.  Great storyline, great movie. a must see ... More

Posted by Wessing at 02:31, 02 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE: The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

I finally saw this on DVD the other day.  Having seen it on the small screen I am envious of all who got the chance to see it on the big screen.  It is a beautifully crafted film that banks on subtelty.  I couldn't get over how good Brad Pitt was.  I'm a big fan of his anyway but the way he appears at once heroic and horrific exceeds the likes of Tyler Durden.  I remember most the scene in which he interrogates a member of his crew.  The compexion of his ... More

Posted by thepluginbaby at 21:11, 29 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Excellent

Im not big western fan but this film was very enjoyable, it took its time, but suited the film perfectly. I enjoyed the relationship between the characters but most of all enjoyed the attention to detail throughout. Stunning to look at aswell. ... More

Posted by iamjacksusername at 10:41, 26 July 2008 | Report This Post


Excellent

This film may seem slow but it al starts to come together by the end. You fully understand what you just witnessed and the significance. Sure it may mean more to a US audience, but by the end you really feel like you have explorerd what and who these people are. One last thing... why do people seldom mention Sam Rockwell, sure Pitt and Affleck were stunning, but so was he. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Funk_Knight at 21:10, 18 July 2008 | Report This Post


The Last Great Film I Watched (come on Dark Knight!!Don't let me down!)

The marriage of Andrew Dominiks visuals and Nick Caves music creates a transcendental mood that is hypnotic and haunting.This is a great film with a great script and a great cast ( Paul Schneiders' Dick Liddl is amazing).Why doesn't Andrew Dominik get more coverage?His frst two are as good as Tarantinos... & Bradley Pitts plays a brilliant paranoid wreck! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by smokingwillie at 21:56, 14 July 2008 | Report This Post


one of the best films of the century. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shawshank prisoner at 13:28, 23 June 2008 | Report This Post


OH YES EMPIRE, The Bourne Ultimatum is a far superior film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 18:18, 17 May 2008 | Report This Post


Haunting, diverse, deep and intellectual film making at its best. A wonderful elegiac tale of the infamous outlaw and his assassin. One of the best films of the last year and one of the best of all time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 18:18, 17 May 2008 | Report This Post


Affleck or Pitt

A slow but beautiful piece of cinema. So Much hype/praise was heaped on casey afflecks performance of Robert Ford, but for me Brad Pitt was outstanding as JJ. Worth buying the brilliant special edition dvd for Pitt's performance alone. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gareth_082 at 18:35, 15 May 2008 | Report This Post


Pardon me...snoozefest.. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by wakachaka at 12:21, 10 May 2008 | Report This Post


:-O

This is, hands down, THE most beautiful and most visionary films I have ever seen. It's Gorgeous! I was a little bit unsure when I read that it was like 98% dialogue based but once I saw it, by god I enjoyed it. If there is one film that you see before you die. Please, please, please make it this one. It's amazing, its wonderful, its moving, visionary. And it's bloody beautiful to watch ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by will.ej.07 at 16:05, 02 May 2008 | Report This Post


Old Slow Hand

This film really captures the boredom of the era. It was pleasing to see a film based on historical events that creates the vibe of living in those times, however this film does not make for compulsive viewing. The slow pace gives it it's mood and a feeling of emptiness which corresponds to the soul searching theme throughout. The how's and why's the characters do what they do are indepth and interesting but take just a bit too long to develop which can at points make for a lack of interest in t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Geosolus at 08:39, 28 April 2008 | Report This Post


A Superb Movie

A brilliant film with mesmerising performances. Without a doubt, Film of the Year ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 09:22, 21 April 2008 | Report This Post


Not Very Good.

I'm sorry but this movie dosen't really shine as a five star movie. It's too overlong and with so many people in it, it could drive you mind. Sure the landscapes were beautiful to look at but with a stupid script spoiling it all. Why does it need two hours and thirty minutes? More like a hour and fifty, so much chat! But the perfomances were outstanding, Brad Pitt suited the role but looked fat and getting old. The best one out of the lot was Casey Affeck, he was creepy and disturbing but quite ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 18:00, 12 April 2008 | Report This Post


The very best western since 'Unforgiven'. Period. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 19:52, 11 April 2008 | Report This Post


The very best western since 'Unforgiven'. Period. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 19:51, 11 April 2008 | Report This Post


The most beautiful movie ever made.

Really touching, subtle, tragic, poetic and deep. Great Movie. Highly recommended. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 19:50, 11 April 2008 | Report This Post


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