Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) is the one of the members of the James crew on the last train robbery before Frank James (Sam Shepard), Jesse’s older brother, quits the crew. Jesse (Brad Pitt) seems to take an unusual liking to this new outlaw who doesn’t seem too fit for this ruthless job. However, after a while Robert must part with his childhood idol and this is when the real tale begins. This film is not really about the assassination of Jesse James, or about how Robert Ford accomplishes this feat, but rather about the degeneration of Jesse James until he becomes so paranoid that he can’t trust even his longest standing crew members, and at the same time Robert Ford’s disillusioning his childhood idol [Jesse James] to make him no longer into a hero but a villain.
This movie is such a character driven film that you at times forget you are hanging out with one of the most feared outlaws in the Wild West, Jesse James, at times. Since you, the audience, are going through the same transition that Robert Ford is going through it makes the movie that much better. Because as you enter the story you are being introduced to the giant of a man and as the story progresses just like Robert you are making this legend more and more human. All the exaggerations become more and more obvious tall tales, and you begin to realize the truth. That Jesse James is a man just like you and I and bleeds red if you cut him and follows all the same rules of nature as everyone else does. This I think is the best positive of the movie. It just seems different than most films out there today which try to take a regular person and turn them into a giant of a man (ie. superhero movies).
The direction was decent. Andrew Dominik used some interesting imagery and camera usage during the film. The most notable of the few were :
- Fisheye lens – this is where the camera had this distinct central distant focusing feature. It was used numerous times during the film, mostly whenever we came to a new area in the film and it was as if we were getting our first look at this new location through Jesse’s eyes, as was mentioned that he had an eye condition at the beginning of the film.
- Fast forwarding of time – the story takes place along the timeline of just about two years. Whenever one chapter of the story would end and another was to continue, we would see a field and look up to the sky where the clouds would pass over us as if we were watching a week pass in the span of about two seconds. This is very useful in keeping a slow story moving at a more than acceptable pace
Even though no one will laud Andrew to be the next Tarantino, I shudder to call him average. So imagine me just saying something in between the two extremes, Andrew Dominik is an above average director and I believe that he could be one of the good drama directors to come, we’ll keep watching.
The acting in this movie was nothing less than fitting. Brad Pitt never once showed anything excessive, which is exactly what Jesse James is, a man who does something because it is how it needs to be done. Jesse James never struck me as a cowboy who went on rampages, but rather did a job because he knew it was required to keep his family (blood or any other bond) fed and happy. While Casey Affleck, I believe, was sculpted for the role of Robert Ford. In all of his previous films (“Good Will Hunting” (1997), “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), and “The Last Kiss” (2006)) he plays the quiet guy who has nearly no say in what is done and then as his character builds throughout the plot will gradually come to action late in the film, which is exactly how Robert Ford is in this movie. So the acting receives a proper ‘A+’ from me.
Every other aspect of this movie seemed pretty average to me. The plot (even though fitting to the reason for the movie) was not that entertaining. This movie would probably be more enjoyed in printed form. This would leave some scenes up to the imagination of the reader rather than the interpretation of the director and actors.
With all that said I still enjoyed this movie, but not enough to have it in my collection, a definite rental if you are a Brad Pitt fan, or a lover of the old west and possible some great character driven stories.