The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Pros
  • Gorgeous cinematography, beautiful backgrounds, and vibrant contrasting images
  • A touching and moving original score that perfectly accents the film's melancholy-like tone
  • Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are fantastic (this being Brad Pitt's favorite role he ever played)
  • The voice over narration is a great addition to the movie which accurately describes the impact specific events had on Jesse James, as well as some insight into Jesse and Roberts thoughts
  • Very interesting to see the fallout and aftermath of Robert Ford's life after the assassination
  • The way the story unfolds truly makes you wonder 'why' characters acted the way they did, it makes you think about the choices the characters make
  • Jesse's wardrobe being almost exclusively black (a trait Robert eerily picks up)
  • One of my new favorite trailers, it perfectly portrays the dream-like tone the movie has (check it out below)
  • 2007 was a knockout year for movies, this being right up there with There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men as the creme of the crop

Cons
  • The obvious, the movie is nearly two hours and forty minutes when it could have easily been edited down quite a bit
  • The first third or half of the movie chooses to focus on some of the less interesting members of the gang
  • The movie brings up a condition Jesse has that makes him blink more than normal, yet throughout the whole movie he hardly blinks (not a true blemish just an odd decision to throw something like this in the movie and then ignore it)
  • A tad confusing with all the talk about the character, Jim Cummins

Score: 9/10

You might think the title of the movie spoils the entire ride with its spoil heavy title, well I'm here to tell you you'd be dead wrong. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is one of the most thought-provoking films I've seen in a very long time. Not because the story is puzzling or complex, but rather because it gives us a different perspective than one might think based off the title. This is not a movie about Jesse James, instead, it is a drama that explores Robert Ford's relationship with Jesse before the assassination and the fallout that comes from it.

One thing is for certain, this isn't your fathers type of western. There are no wild shootouts, horse chases, elaborate bank robberies, or even a hero for that matter. This is a tale of one character's rise to infamy through another character's downfall. Put bluntly, the movie is more of an epilogue than anything else. The movie is primarily told from Robert Ford's perspective which only makes things that much more poignant about the entire situation. We see the impact meeting the real Jesse James has on him and how his ideas of him become warped over time and what that means for the fate of both men. From Robert idolizing Jesse, to him thinking he is 'just a human being'.

It's not easy to see who is a hero and who isn't, those lines are intentionally blurred. The beginning of the film clearly makes the case for Robert Ford being an over the top obsessive fan of Jesse James, which points him out to be the 'bad guy' as the title suggests. But as time goes by the director moves away from this notion and starts to build up the idea that Robert Ford as acting not out of pure cowardice, but perhaps out of self-defense, or so Jesse will have him believe. It's this vague line that makes the movie so intriguing, who truly was playing who? But at the same time, there is also the idea of self-promotion at play. This is an opportunity for Robert to achieve the stardom he has always wanted. Finally, Robert Ford has been given his chance at fame, but certainly not the type of fame he was looking for.

The beauty comes at the end of the film when we are shown the final years of Robert's life now having to live with the fateful decision. He is given fame but at the cost of torment and public ridicule for killing a beloved figure. Interesting enough is that we don't truly see what the public thinks of Jesse James till he is gone. He is seen as a celebrity by many, but the entire movie leading up to this point keeps this aspect hidden from the viewer. As if Robert Ford himself simply believed he could replace the man himself, simply take his fame and make it his own and no one would know. It's beautifully structured so that as the movie progresses you start to actually sympathize with Robert more and more right up to the bitter end. Yes, he may have been a creepy sociopath to begin with but as his suffering unfolds before our eyes it's hard not to pity the man. The brilliance truly stems from focusing on Robert over Jesse.

And as for the soundtrack, it's spectacular and more importantly moving. It helps paint the 'wild west' as a slow moving and sorrowful place, where heroes are born but also where they will eventually die. This score mixed with the stunning cinematography, which at times obscures the image, create a perfect dreamlike tone (as if the whole movie is some sort of fantasy of Roberts').

I can easily say this is one of my favorite western movies ever made. It's subtle, beautiful, and moving. And as I said above, the movie is rather slow (especially the first half) but the ending is more than rewarding. It leaves you emotionally conflicted, feeling sorrow for the so-called 'coward' of the story.