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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Preview

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Preview by Jack Foley

THE Western has already enjoyed something of a renaissance this year following the critical adulation and early Oscar buzz surrounding James Mangold’s 3:10 To Yuma remake.

But that’s nothing compared to the hype surrounding Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which has already earned its star, Brad Pitt, a Best Actor prize at Venice and almost universal acclaim.

Based on the novel by Ron Hansen, the film delves into the private lives of America’s most notorious outlaw and his unlikely assassin, Robert Ford (as played by Casey Affleck) to offer a new perspective on a legend and address the question of what really may have transpired in the months before that infamous shooting.

Set in the year 1881, when Jesse is 34-years-old, the film follows the outlaw as he plans his next great robbery and continues to wage war on his enemies who are trying to collect the reward money and the glory riding on his capture.

Having been previewed extensively on the festival circuit following its debut at Venice and triumphant bow at Toronto (London comes next), the film is being hailed as a masterpiece by pretty much everyone who sees it.

A slow-burning, slow paced one, yes (it clocks in at two hours and 40 minutes), but a grand Western revival in the truest sense, that combines the violence and edginess of Sam Peckinpah and Don Siegel with the surrealism of Terrence Malick.

Critics in America also raved when the film was released last week (September 28, 2007).

Variety wrote that “it’s a magnificent throwback to a time when filmmakers found all sorts of ways to refashion Hollywood’s oldest and most durable genre”.

*The Chicago-Sun Times” opined: “The movie has the space and freedom of classic Western epics.”

And Rolling Stone wrote that “Dominik paints a richly detailed mosaic on locations in Calgary and Winnipeg, and you can only marvel at the visual miracles achieved by cinematographer Roger Deakins”.

Entertainment Weekly also raved, describing it as “a haunting retelling of one of the enduring outlaw sagas in American culture” as did the *New York Observer”, which stated: “The extraordinary expressive performers, male and female; the haunting interior and exterior conflicts; the painstaking authenticity of the period detail; and the subtly modulated mood shifts all combine to make a modern masterpiece of an old legend.”

Ebert & Roeper, meanwhile, preducted that “if you love classic and stylish mood Westerns such as McCabe and Mrs. Miller and The Long Riders, this is your film”.

Ahead of its UK release, Total Film magazine concluded: “The running time and pacing may scare some, but Dominik has crafted an instant classic, with poet visuals, sensational performances and a true love for the genre. Magnificent.”

And Michael Hayden, writing for the London Film Festival, credits Dominik, the filmmaker behind Chopper, with having created something special – “a haunting, poetic western that feels more vital than any recent example of the genre”.

He adds that Brad Pitt has rarely been better as James, while Affleck creates “a complex Ford, youthful, naive and in awe” of James.

The film is playing at the LFF on October 19 and 21 and opens in UK cinemas on November 30.

  1. The family of Jesse James has posted its own review of this movie on their family web site, Stray Leaves.

    Eric James    Oct 8    #