Friday 8 January 2010

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [2007]

-->That this movie doesn’t belong to the genre of suspense thrillers is amply clear from its title. Yet, such is the successful culmination of the director’s audacious vision and the beauty of the addictive screenplay, that despite the title also serving as its synopsis, the movie manages to make one watch every frame with bated breath. Courtesy its lazy pacing, elegiac tone and the breathtaking splendour of the vignettes captured on screen, this epic revisionist Western about the assassination of the legendary outlaw by a greasy wannabe manages to be brooding, contemplative and insightful look into violence, brutality, death and man’s obsession with celebrity culture. Mesmerizing in its ability to slowly grow on the viewers (even after the end credits have rolled) and incredibly haunting to look at, the movies has been as generously helped by its splendid recreation of the wild West days that is almost nostalgic in its intonation, as by its talented motley crew of actors. Brad Pitt, as one of the first icons of America, is especially brilliant in his powerful portrayal of an enigmatic man whose mournful exterior masked a psychotic gunman within; Casey Affleck, too, is really good as the queasy and complex young man whose hero worship of Jesse James is gradually replaced with cold jealousy that leads to what the title informed us well in advance.

Director: Andrew Domonik
Genre: Drama/Western/Epic
Language: English
Country: US


Omar said...

Yeah, now this is what you call a western par excellence! Some trivia for you - Brad Pitt stipulated in his contract for the film that the studio could under no circumstance change the title to the film. And yes, the film was dumped and it sunk without a trace at the box office but it features Brad Pitt's best performance to date and also benefits enormously from what is one of the most hypnotic scores for an American film in a while - Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have composed the music to Hillcoat's 'The Road'. A film about a celebrity culture and one of the great recent westerns.

Dave said...

Casey Affleck's performance as Bob Ford is one of the most impressive of recent years, in my opinion. There are times in this film that his performance is so effective, that it's almost too embarrassing to watch him get flustered by just being in Jesse's presence.

This is a great movie, among my top three of the entire decade. The cinematography is also spectacular. I'm glad that you got to see this one!

Sam Juliano said...

Again Shubhajit, you use language to excellent effect. The new Age score by Cave and Ellis is one of the most effective in years, and it assists mightily in the elegiac tone and in the aural accompaniment to those sensory metaphysical passages. I do predict that is years to come this will be seen as one of the greatest western films of all time. I am proud too to post after our great friend Dave Hicks, whose love for this film is certainly in a class by itself.

I just acquired the blu-ray DVD of this title, after owning teh standard version since it was released. The picture is stunning of course.

Shubhajit said...

@Omar: Wasn't aware about that! Personally I've been an admirer of Brad Pitt the actor for sometime now. Agreed, he does a blockbuster here & there, and he lives life king size - commensurate with his celebrity status, Brangelina and all that shit. But he's also a very good actor, and he has quite a few movies to prove that in his favour - Thelma & Louise, Fight Club, Seven, Babel, Curious Case..., Inglourious Basterds, etc. among others. And this movie sure takes a glowing place in that elite club.

And thanks for pointing out my oversight, I really should have said a few words about the wonderful score.

@Dave: Indeed, Casey Affleck's character is the one who drives the narrative forward, and he is fascinating as the twitchy, greasy and unctuous Robert Ford, so much at odds with Brad Pitt's brooding, mournful yet subtly psychotic Jesse James. In fact, his role reminded me a bit about Steve Buscemi's turn in Fargo.

And yes, as far as this being one of your favourite movies, I sure know all about that as I followed your countdown quite religiously :)

@Sam: Well, for me the movie is already one of the best Westerns of the last 2 decades, along with the likes of Unforgiven & Proposition. And yeah, it does have the propensity to grow on the film lovers' psyche with the passage of time. It really continues to grow on me even though a week has passed since I watched it.

And I do envy your possession of the blu-ray disc of the movie. The incredibly beautiful & haunting photography will surely look that much more ravishing in blu-ray!!!

Just Another Film Buff said...

Best cinematographed movie of 2007!

Shubhajit said...

@JAFB: Now that's precise ;P

King Viswa said...

I Second that This is Brad's Best performance till date, a cut above than his Seven and fightculb, thelma & louis.

Haven't seen QT's Inglorious basterds yet. so can't comment on it.

Shubhajit said...

@Viswa: Brad Pitt is indeed a very fine actor - something that not many seem to concede about him probably because of his celebrity status. Thanks for stopping by.

John said...

I concur with what the others have posted here. One of the best of the year, of the decade actually with an amazing performance by Casey Affleck. Beautifully photographed reminding me of Altman's "McCabe and Mrs Miller."

Shubhajit said...

Thanks John for sharing your enthusiasm of the movie. Nearly everything about the movie - pacing, photography, performances, etc. worked remarkably for me.

I haven't watched McCabe & Mrs. Miller, though I know I should have :)