Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Dir: Andrew Dominik

Finally got around to seeing this - I guess I’d been wary; the stupidly long title alone had me label it as a painfully self-aware, not-really-indie, worthy, Oscar-baiting star vehicle.  I suppose it turned out to be all those things, but is actually very good too.

There’s something slightly incongruous with the juxtaposition between stunningly shot vistas (cinematography by the always brilliant Roger Deakins, Oscar nominated here) and the more earthy dialogue scenes (which feel almost like a Ken Loach movie). But it’s those talky scenes that really captivate - Sam Rockwell and Jeremy Renner (so good in The Hurt Locker) are especially good as two not-very-bright lackeys.

Pitt is Pitt, replete with the usual manic outbursts and flashes of ugly thuggery. What makes this work is how he’s distanced from his gang, attaining mythic status, especially in the eyes of Ford, played with astonishing skill by Casey Affleck.

This all results in a kind of Wild West Fight Club - a twisted story of man-love, told from the point of view of one little, ineffectual guy.  Ford sees James as heroic and longs to be him; the audience sees something else, yet - thanks to Affleck’s painfully honest performance - we can feel sympathy for his misguided devotion.

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