Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, the - Sharp Shooter

Duration: 160min
Category: Western
Available: On DVD
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Most film makers seem to forget that film is a visual medium. I love it when a film is a strikingly beautiful thing to watch. However, a film is also a narrative work and it is important that there is a compelling story illustrated by the beautiful images. When they both come together youíve got a great film. That is whatís happened with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

By the subject one might imagine this to be a Young Guns style, shoot-em-up action packed extravaganza. One would be wrong. Jesse James instead is an intricate character study, yes of James but more about Ford. Relative newcomer, Andrew Dominik crafts an intimate, almost claustrophobic examination of two men and their love and fear of each other. Itís fascinating to watch.

Those wanting action and fast cuts may get bored but those who are interested in seeing some amazing character interaction will be floored with the grace and elegance with which Assassination is made. Itís the kind of film where small details impact each scene profoundly and add layer upon layer to the film watching experience.

Many of those layers are laid by the two leads. Pitt doesnít allow the type casting to overwhelm him. Instead, he gets underneath an almost impossible to play character and gives the audience someone to believe it. Affleck has the showier, more Oscar bait role, but he doesnít bite. Instead he lets himself get lost in the character and is breathtaking to watch. Each of their performances begs to be seen in repeat viewings to see all that is going on.

That is true about the whole film. Especially the scenery. Sure, I am biased as I was raised in the country where this was filmed but it would be hard for anyone to deny the shear beauty of the background in which Assassination is filmed. Also, Dominik has shot the film with such a style. The look is cohesive, evoking the era without ever looking dated. He loves to blur the edges like it was shot with a still camera of the era. This could have been a silent film and it would have been riveting from the very first frame.

One of my favourite features; I loved the narration. I thought it was a lovely, perfect touch which set the exact right tone for this story. At once, it set the tale both as legend and as gossip. It was just another example of the film maker knowing exactly what to do to make the film perfect.

There has been some talk about the resurgence of the Western. Who cares? Assassination is a wonderful movie by any genreís standards.

Dominik is one to watch. He has an eye for real story telling, character development and most of all, he knows how to make a damn gorgeous picture. I will be ready for whatever he does next.

Review By: Collin Smith

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