Based on the 1983 novel by Ron Hansen, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD captivatingly depicts the final few months of the legendary Jesse James's life. He was 34, and his days of ruthless robbing had dwindled, yet his fearsome reputation continued to swell. With an abundance of nickel-books retelling his brutal gun-slinging adventures, James (portrayed by Brad Pitt, in one his most convincing and moving roles) had become a symbolic hero for many Americans, and a dazzling tabloid icon for the 19th-century media. A particular young man seduced by the wonderment of James, the shifty Robert Ford (a breakthrough performance by Casey Affleck), wormed his way in as a James groupie, in the hopes of snagging a coveted spot alongside his brother Charley (played by the always affable Sam Rockwell) as one of the bandit's cronies. Ford, fiercely insecure and painfully aware that he would never be taken seriously by James (who, ever-plagued by paranoia and skepticism, found Ford's earnest obsession a bit unsettling), grew increasingly angry with his idol, leading to a destructive path that ultimately ended in the anticlimactic death of Jesse James--and brought the treacherous Robert Ford the notoriety he had always wanted.Although this film takes place in the late 1800's, its eerie relevance to modern-day celebrity-obsession scandals is astounding, and adds a fresh scope to what could be viewed as just another cinematic western. Director Andrew Dominick (CHOPPER) furthers the film from its genre by banishing clichéd bullet-infested showdown scenes, instead embracing the relationships and interactions of the outlaws, and creates a mood of brooding and contemplation with exceptional camera angles and lighting. His intensely sophisticated approach to filmmaking illustrates the darkest corners of the characters, and insightfully provides a deeper, heartfelt portrayal revealing what the men might have been like behind their masks.
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4 stars out of 4 -- "[T]his is a wondrously contemplative and poetic saga that offers a fresh and bewitching take on a timeworn genre."USA Today - Claudia Puig (09/21/2007)"[A] haunting retelling of one of the enduring outlaw sagas in American culture...shot by the brilliant cinematographer Richard Deakins in a wide-open geography of moody skies and fields plaintive with bent light and shadow." -- Grade: AEntertainment Weekly - Lisa Schwarzbaum (09/28/2007)3.5 stars out of 4 -- "[T]his quiet wow of a Western sneaks up as one hell of a satisfying surprise. Artfully exciting and compulsively watchable..."Rolling Stone - Peter Travers (10/04/2007)5 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's awash with melancholy and ennui, love and betrayal, obsession and paranoia and arrives like manna from movie heaven....An instant classic, with poetic visuals..."Total Film - Mark Salisbury (11/01/2007)5 stars out of 5 -- "[A] slow, meditative poem that harkens to the verdant sprawl of Terrence Malick's DAYS OF HEAVEN."Empire - Ian Nathan (10/19/2007)4 stars out of 5 -- "Malick, Kubrick and Cimino would surely recognise a kindred spirit in Dominik....[A] weighty monument to the death of the West..."Uncut - Tom Charity (12/01/2007)"The film has a good feel for the Victorian milieu in which it is set....Roger Deakins' photography makes the most of the bleak winter landscapes of the Midwest, evocative of the coldness and emptiness that lie in the heart of Jesse James."Sight and Sound - Edward Buscombe (12/01/2007)"What transfers best is Pitt's intriguing performance as the outlaw king....The casually charismatic aspect of Jesse James is second nature to Pitt..."Los Angeles Times - Kenneth Turan (09/21/2007)5 stars out of 5 -- "With breathtaking cinematography and a masterful score that manages to be both plaintive and foreboding, Dominik's film slowly works its way under the skin, steadily building to a heart-wrenching climax..."Ultimate DVD - Chris Prince (05/01/2008)
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