Brad Pitt leads an all-star cast in Andrew Dominik's (Chopper) take on the assassination of the man often referred to as "˜the fastest gun in the west', in The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford. The film, shot completely on location in Winnipeg, Canada suffers from a dragging script; however, combine the amazing cinematography, camera angles, and acting and the hiccups are easily overlooked, providing a film that just might put the western genre back on the map.
Taking a little over four years to get to the big screen, The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford was originally set to be released in September 2006 with a running time of almost three and a half hours, the film has now been cut down to "˜only' two hours and forty minutes "“ which unfortunately is still way too long. With slow scene to scene flow and a slow development of Jesse James, as a man, the film has a tendency to drag, and you will often have you feeling like you are watching a documentary on the History Channel. The story is spread out, with no real fast development resulting in the dragging to its finish.
Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) is an eager newly recruited member of Jesse James' notorious gang. As James plans his next big robbery, he decides to go to war with his enemies as they are all after the bounty that has been attached to his head. However, when the opportunity arises, those closest to James, brothers Robert and Charlie Ford, take advantage and put an end to this man, causing him to rise to mythical status.
One thing that I have to say first off is that even if you are not a fan of western film, the colorful and serene shots that are captured of skylines and wheat fields are priceless and warrant the admission price in and of itself. However, the film goes way beyond the pink skies and brown fields and captivates its audience from scene one.
Based on the novel by Ron Hansen, Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck bring unbelievable chemistry to the big screen and portray a friendship, obsession, and betrayal to perfection. Sharing the screen for 90% of the film, both Pitt and Affleck work brilliantly together; however it is Affleck who proves to be the shinning star and verifies that he can carry a film and does deserve the recognition that has been hesitantly given to him over the years. Add in the likes of Sam Shepard, Mary-Louise Parker and Sam Rockwell, who are all at the top of their game, and the cast is undeniably brilliant giving a slow, character driven story new life whenever it is needed.
Camera work was also a forte of Dominik's as he uses a mixture of camera angles, scene transitions and camera lens to give the film a unique look and provide just enough diversity to keep your attention during the long, dry spells. Often given the perspective of looking out a window, Dominik centers the lens on a central object while causing the edges of the frame to appear blurry. This technique is something that I have never seen before and is used quite frequently during the film causing you to take notice not only to the actions on the screen but also the scenery that surrounds it. Insert amazing music composed by Nick Cave and the film turns into a brilliant artistic masterpiece.
The film is one that you have to be prepared for, and if not, will have you clock watching by the first half hour. Going in and being prepared for some of the best characterized acting of the year, mixed with shots of blissful sunsets, fields, and 1880s scene shots, and you will come out on cloud nine. The film is great, one that should definitely be seen by all, just be prepared for what awaits you on the screen "¦ it is the only way to enjoy this piece of inspiring, western art.