The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

  • Written and Directed by Andrew Dominik
  • September 2, 2007 (Venice Film Festival) / September 21, 2007 (United States)

The Wasted Cast

  • Jesse James-Brad Pitt
  • Robert Ford-Casey Affleck
  • Frank James-Sam Shepard
  • Wood Hite-Jeremy Renner
  • Charley Ford-Sam Rockwell
  • Dick Liddil-Paul Schneider
  • Zerelda James-Mary-Louise Parker
  • Dorothy Evans-Zooey Deschanel
  • Ed Miller-Garret Dillahunt
  • Sheriff James Timberlake-Ted Levine
  • Gov. Thomas Theodore Crittenden-James Carville
  • Martha Bolton-Alison Elliott
  • Capt. Henry Craig-Michael Parks
  • Sarah Hite-Kailin See
  • Maj. George Hite-Tom Aldredge
  • Edward Capehart O’Kelley-Michael Copeman

Having idolized the outlaw since childhood, Robert Ford attempts to join Jesse James’s reforming gang only to become disillusioned and resentful.

I went into this movie with high hopes, but they were quickly dashed. In minutes dashed. There is a solid cast here and it was released by a major studio, but this is ultimately a mediocre film at its best moments. Insufferably dull at its worst and those appear to be rather frequent. This is a rare film I did not complete. In fact I got up to get something from another room and followed that with a nap only to be awakened by the realization the movie was still running.

Scenes in the film are connected together with narration that serves mostly to avoid depicting actual events on screen. I found that reminiscent of David Lynch’s film version of the book Dune. While not as bad as that film, its use is still a pretty serious heavy here. The only exciting event that I saw depicted in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (I know what the title references, but they should have picked something shorter) was the train robbery and that fell flat in my opinion. This is supposed to be these dangerous outlaws robbing a train and it did not feel that serious of a moment. It looked cool but was not exciting or much of anything.

In total there is a lot of talking and not much action in this movie. I do not mind dialogue heavy films but even in dialogue heavy films something has to happen. They need to do more than just yammer. The dialogue must move the story forward, but the dialogue here just did not. The connecting narration of the film did more to move things forward than any of the scenes.

This is a beautiful shot film with good background music, but it is just boring. It feels like a movie that was just going through the motions. It wanted to be an awards contender and slapped all those elements together to make a film. This has all the elements to be a good film and does all the things a good film does but it is just not a good film.

The costuming and set decoration and environment all feel authentic. They create a very believable world. What they show looks like it was almost ripped right from a history book, and I give them a huge amount of credit for that. Their attention to detail is to be applauded. I wish more films were this beautiful to look at. As much as I dislike the story presented, I feel you could turn off the sound here and feel as if you are watching a piece of art. It is a rare film that looks that nice.

This film is based off of Ron Hansen’s 1983 novel of the same name and portrays the dynamic between Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) with the focus on what lead up to the titular killing. This movie is not derived from a compilation of research. This is a dramatic presentation of someone else’s dramatic presentation of historical events. While the film The Right Stuff did the same thing and may have worked when doing the same thing, here this time it just did not.

In full disclosure I have an issue with revisionist Westerns. In large part it tends to stem from everybody being terrible people and also the lack of the old-school Western tropes. Given that this is a story about Jesse James, I figured you would have at least some of the old-school Western tropes even if it was a revisionist Western but since nothing really happens you don’t even get that.

As I said before I did not finish the movie. It was not that it was too long (clocking in at near three hours). I have sat through and enjoyed longer. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was just slow and plodding and that kept me from watching further. Maybe it abruptly picks up after my stopping point but I am not going to double check.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford may be the cup of tea of some people, but it most certainly is not one for me. I say skip it.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

4 thoughts on “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

  1. I love this movie. I LOVE this movie. I would love to see a 4K UHD release of this movie.

    It does every a lovely, lyrical ending by the way. But no film is for everybody.


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