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THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, 2007
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JESSE JAMES MOVIE POSTER
THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, 2009
Movie Reviews

Directed by Andrew Dominik
Starring: Brad Pitt, Casey Afflek, Mary-Louise Parker, Sam Rockwell
Review by Eli Manning



SYNOPSIS:

Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) joins Jesse James's (Brad Pitt) gang, only to become resentful of the legendary outlaw and hatches a plan to kill the fastest gun in the West.

REVIEW:

This is a film that has a lot of great things in it:

-The beautiful and telling cinematography by Roger Deakins who is becoming a legend with a terrific body of work (the many Coen brothers films etc.)

-Terrific performances all around. This is really an actor's piece as what happens when actors produce the film. Brad Pitt has never been better (eventhough his character doesn't really have an arc), all of the supporting charcters are great and Casey Affleck playing Bob Ford is tremendous. A defining role for him.

-A film that talks about a terrific thematic with the obsession one has for those who become legends by the press and novelists. People like Jesse James, Billy The Kid, Wyatt Earp etc.. were the Actors of their day as this film really has a nice parallel to our present world. Someone wanting to be famous and a legend themself without doing the hard work and risks it takes to get to that level. And what happens to people when they do something that they think will make them famous and then they actually become infamous.

-And a terrific haunting score that carries us throughout the entire film making sure we're with the characters all the way.

But there is also a lot of wrong in this film unfortunately and the title of the film sums up it too. A tad too long for us to really sink our teeth into and remember. At a running time of 160 minutes, this is a film that easily could of been 2 hours while still telling the same story.

As someone who's been on many film sets, I understand what the problem they had in editing (which is why this movie filmed in mid-2005, spent almost 2 years in post-production). Filmmaker Andrew Dominek who's only previous film, CHOPPER in 2000, tells us with this movie too that this is a man with a lot of talent. But he didn't shoot much coverage at all which caused many problems to cut the film. A situation where he didn't collaborate with his editor while he was making the film.

Watching this film you see a lot of long shots. This can be okay when you're not dealing with a film that's mainly people talking to each other. This is a movie with many plot points that the actors are telling us. We needed to hear these passages in order for us to understand the journey and Dominek put himself into a corner in editing by not being able to cut scenes short. There's just no way he can cut an actor's monologue short when he's only done one setup. There's nothing to cut to so you can cut back. Actors love this and so does the DOP, so Dominick had no one to tell him to stop and get more coverage in the scenes.

Then there's an ongoing Narration happening during the film from an outside source which can be accomplished when the shooting style is voyeuristic like this film is. We the audience always seem to be looking in on these characters lives from afar. But this narration is a bit of a distraction and a device used because the direction doesn't tell us what we need in order for us understand what's happening.

This is a great story that just went a tad off course. It's just a shame too because all the pieces were in place. After I watch a movie I always ask myself when I like to see this film again. If I never want to see it again I know that this is not a very good film. And I really can't see myself every sitting through another 160 minutes again to see how Jesse James got killed. So I just can't give this a good grade. But this is definitely a film worth viewing.

2 1/2 out of 4.

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