The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Starring:  Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell Directed by:  Andrew Dominik

I commonly listen to music scores via Pandora radio while I analyze or QC data at work.  (Vangelis, John Williams, Danny Elfman and Ennio Morricone stations are favorites of mine).  On one of these stations I first heard some absolutely beautiful, melodic and slightly sad themes from the score of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.  I had mentioned wanting to see this movie to Ryan, and his first comment was, "It's a long movie and I heard it's slow.  You won't like it."

Despite this, I was still interested. The film remained in our queue until it climbed to the top.  And then it sat around on the TV cabinet for about a month while we debated having enough time to sit down and watch it.  I really wish we had watched the movie earlier, as it is a good investment of 155 or so minutes.

First, I must disagree with the idea that it is a slow film.  True, there is only one action-packed train robbery sequence. Moments of comedy?  Not so much.  But it's a far cry from films where nothing actually happens.  Instead, it very deliberately moves toward the consummation identified in the title.

Perhaps it is because I already – in essence – knew what was supposed to happen, it made the pacing OK.  Like waiting for Christmas.  But I don't believe that's really it. All the scenes had some sort of meaning in the grand scheme of events.  Kind of like the mechanisms within a Rube Goldberg machine or dusty artifacts that shed light on a civilization's collapse.

The movie is totally character driven – their perceptions, conversations, motivations, fears, dreams and delusions are brought to life in an engaging enough way to make typical movie action unnecessary.   Jesse James (depicted with excellence by Brad Pitt) is so much more than a robber bandit – he is a driven, complex, and perhaps not completely sane man.  Robert Ford (played exceptionally well by Casey Affleck) grows in maturity throughout the movie, completely correct in his belief that his destiny is somehow tied to his childhood idol Jesse James.

If you prefer:

  • action to contemplation
  • cars to horseback
  • the strong, silent hero to an awkward, outburst-y anti-hero

Don't add this to the queue.

If you like:

  • Brad Pitt playing mentally unstable characters (a la 12 Monkeys, Fight Club)
  • movies with a  historic flavor
  • breathtaking landscapes

Put it in the queue!

Written by Jennifer Venson