***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - 5 out of 5
I enjoy the Western genre but, to be honest, there are few older Western I enjoy. The reason, you ask? Most older Westerns were cheap. They mostly offered the same story and consisted almost entirely of poorly done "shoot 'em up" action scenes that always have the guy grabbing his heart and falling from a 2nd story balcony during them. However, as film progressed and technology evolved, the Western genre has become better as they are able to tell more complex stories other than the typical bandits robbed the farm and they're able add a little drama to the mix. The addition of drama is what makes The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford such an amazing movie to watch.
Based upon the novel of the same name, the film is a dramatized display of the real life relationship between the nearly mythical gunslinger Jesse James and the man who killed him; Robert Ford. Director Andrew Dominik does an incredible job of creating a systematically rising sense of tension between James (played by Brad Pitt) and the rest of his crew in the James Gang. By the end of the film, the build up is so intense, it's practically pouring out of the screen and filling your living room. Dominik also does an amazing job at making the audience feel as if the very novel has come to life and is being acted out and read to us. Scenes are broken up with near-montage-like sequences being narrated by actor Hugh Ross. Now you would think that such scenes would show a lazy attitude towards the film as it breaks the rule of "showing don't tell" but these sequences act like breathers in the tension for a majority of the film and disappear before the ultimate end to James, ratcheting up the pressure even more with its absence and making the death of Jesse James even more traumatic. Add this with music from Nick Cave (who even does a cameo as a singer in a bar) and you have yourself an incredibly moving Western.
And of course, we can't forget the cast...and this movie has a cast that is overloaded with talent. First off, you have Brad Pitt kicking ass and taking names as Jesse James. The guy just looks like a badass throughout the entire film with his posture and "don't fuck with me" strut. Surrounding Pitt in the James Gang is one of my favorite actors; Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner (who should have won Best Actor for The Hurt Locker), and the man who got all the acting talent in his family, Ben Affleck's baby brother; Casey Affleck. There are scenes in this film where all these men get together and I started to fear for the fabric of reality. To have that much talent in one movie is almost too much!
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford isn't your typical Western. Sure there's some blood and guns get fired but the focus is on character and emotions--the growing sense of betrayal from Jesse's perspective and near lustful infatuation that turns into jealous, homicidal rage from Ford. And it's this focus on character and drama that makes this film EPIC on my rating system.