• James Rutherford

'The Assassination of Jesse James': A Superbly Stylish Retelling of the Infamous Outlaw's Final Days


Movie poster for the film The Assassination of Jesse James starring Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (2007) is a highly stylized revisionist western that follows the burgeoning relationship between between the titular outlaw (Brad Pitt) and Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), a green young criminal desperate to align himself with his lifelong hero.


Initially brought under James’ wing in order to assist in relocating the latter’s home, Ford soon finds himself enmeshed in a complicated power struggle within The James–Younger Gang. With secondary members conspiring to betray James and turn him in to the authorities, Ford quickly becomes a pawn in the outright warfare that erupts between the splintered members of the once mighty band of robbers. Ultimately he’s drawn into a meeting with the governor of Missouri, Thomas Crittenden (James Carville), who assigns him to the task of capturing or killing James within ten days, in order to earn a large bounty for himself.


Beautifully crafted by Australian director Andrew Dominik (“Chopper”, “One More Time with Feeling”) and esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins (“No Country for Old Men”, “Blade Runner 2049”), “The Assassination of Jesse James” is a sublimely transcendent twist on the classic western, delivering a bold, fresh vision to the genre. Pitt and Affleck both deliver pitch perfect performances to a story that patiently spells out a historic acquaintanceship beset by profound mortality. It’s a highly-valued sleeper film fully primed for newfound discovery.

 

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