IMDb Rating: 7.5/10
R | 2h 40min | Biography, Crime |10 Oct 2007 (France) | Movie
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77% Certified Fresh (Critic reviews) | 75% Fresh (Audience reviews)
Director: Andrew Dominik
Writer: Andrew Dominik, Ron Hansen
Stars: Brad Pitt, Mary-Louise Parker, Casey Affleck
Movie Tagline: “Beyond the myth lies America’s greatest betrayal.“
IMDb summary: Robert Ford, who’s idolized Jesse James since childhood, tries hard to join the reforming gang of the Missouri outlaw, but gradually becomes resentful of the bandit leader.
WE ARE NOT SPOILER FREE
This film came pretty close to being a perfect example of what makes a film great. And we hardly ever say that about a movie. And after the recent re-watch, it’s so apparent to me why this film did so well – everything from the actors to the script was in complete harmony.
The story of Jesse James’ killer wouldn’t be an easy thing to adapt to film. The reason why I say that is because while it is commonly known that the killer was Robert Ford, Jesse James’ cousin and fellow gang member, the way he died still has a lot of question marks over it. He was shot, that much is certain but with what is not so easily discerned. There are several versions that are told about the weapon that killed him; one was a Colt and the other supposedly a Smith and Wesson pistol. The gun Jesse James gives Robert Ford is an 1875/1878 Smith and Wesson Model 3, Schofield .45 caliber revolver.
The main plot follows the two leads Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. It is narrated in parts which adds so much to the film but we are not sure if the text is taken directly from the book the movie is based on written by Ron Hansen.
Robert Ford seems almost desperate in the way he pursues Jesse and his brother to some degree, Frank. And both Frank and Jesse are somewhat put “off” by Bob’s strange advances and at times, are not really sure of what Bob’s intentions are. Casey Affleck is brilliant in the role of Robert Ford. He reminds me of a person that you may have known in school who was always a little “strange” in their ways and someone you would try to keep at arm’s length. He portrayed that “oddness” so well it was almost creepy.
And Brad Pitt as the outlaw Jesse James was easily an award-winning performance. His iteration of Jesse James gives me something more than what I envisioned this man to be making him entirely realistic. While a lot of the “tales” about Jesse James were most likely made-up or exaggerated, the man depicted in this film is every bit the legend who is admired by everyone that knows him. In that respect, it is understandable that Bob Ford would hold Jesse in such high regard. But I think fear had a lot to do with that too. And Jesse seemed to thrive on it.
Which brings me to the final act where Jesse is killed by Robert Ford. The few scenes leading up to this segment in the film give you the impression that Jesse, an already very untrusting person becomes even more paranoid about Robert and his intentions. And Brad Pitt acts every part of this so well, it’s actually very surprising the following events and his death played out the way that they did. The death scene is one of my favourites because of the way in which everything is staged with such deliberation and attention to detail. The way that Jesse stands with his back to Robert is almost like he is allowing Robert to do what he is planning to do – like he is giving him permission to end his life.
Such a moving and brilliant film and a wonderful cinematic experience. If you haven’t seen this film yet, please do because you’re truly missing out on some of the best performances of these actors’ careers.
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Freelance entertainment writer and reviewer. Visit my blog on https://thebrokenquill.com.