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Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The (2007, Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck)



Despite being a wanted outlaw and murderer Jesse James has become a mythic figure of American folklore, his death at the hands of Robert Ford, a young member of his gang, assured both James and Ford almost legendary status.

It’s 1881 and Jesse James (Brad Pitt) at the age of 34 is feeling the effects of 14 years on the run. His brother Frank (Sam Shepard) is determined to give up the train robbing busines, Jesse though is more concerned with making sure nobody does him or his name wrong and forever moving with his wife (Mary Louise Parker) and two young children in order to stay one step ahead of the law.

19 year old Robert Ford (a truly superb portrayal by Casey Affleck who steals the movie out from under Pitt’s feet) is amazed when Jesse allows him to join his gang and as Jesse descends into paranoia and displays increasingly erratic behaviour, Ford (and his older brother Charlie) realise the only way they are going to stay alive is by killing Jese.

Writer and director Andrew Dominik leaves us in no doubt as to how the movie will play out, right from the opening scenes it has an elegiac, panoramic, almost sepia toned look and feel. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is superb and theres a beautiful blurring of the edges whenever the narrator advances the story.

Pitt’s James is a truly nasty piece of work with no redeeming features but knowing that and seeing Jesse playing with his children (who don’t know what their daddy does for a living) adds a huge measure of poignancy to his inevitable death. It’s Affleck’s film really though, a wonderfully measured performance with just the right glint of insanity and rightousness behind the eyes and wisely director Dominik doesn’t end the story with the assassination of Jesse but allows the movie to play out with Ford cashing in on the murder and his own equally inevitable sad end.

production details
USA | 160 minutes | 2007

Director: Andrew Dominik
Script: Andrew Dominik, Ron Hansen,

Brad Pitt as Jesse James
Casey Affleck as Robert Ford
Sam Shepard as Frank James
Mary-Louise Parker as Zeralda James
Paul Schneider as Dick Liddil
Jeremy Renner as Wood Hite
Zooey Deschanel as Dorothy Evans
Alison Elliott as Martha Bolton
Sam Rockwell as Charley Ford
Garret Dillahunt as Ed Miller
Brooklynn Proulx as Mary James
Dustin Bollinger as Tim James
Joel McNichol as Express Messenger
James Defelice as Baggagemaster
J.C. Roberts as Engineer
Kailin See as Sarah Hite
Michael Parks as Henry Craig
Ted Levine as Sheriff James Timberlak
James Carville as Thomas T. Crittenden
Nick Cave as Bowery Saloon Singer
Sarah Lind as Bob’s Girlfriend