12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 7)

That’s right, this series is still going. I am not giving up on it, even remembering to do a post each day is a surprisingly stressful act. Anyway, here’s today’s post.

Based on a book by Ron Hansen, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was released in 2007, and directed by Andrew Dominik. It follows a young man named Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) who has idolized legendary American outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) for many years, and then finally gets the chance to join his gang at the age of 19. The movie is a character-driven psychological drama all about demythologizing Jesse James while also deconstructing its central protagonist, Robert Ford. So now you’re probably wondering how I’m gonna contrive this to be a christmas movie? Well, watch and learn, my friends. This is how the pros (read: idiots) do it.

Now, one or two of you might assume I’m gonna use the scenes set in snowy landscapes for this. Well, as I’ve probably established earlier in this series, I’m not that fucking shallow. That’s not contrived enough. No, I got something else.
What we see in the movie after Bob joins Jesse’s gang is how much he notices what a psychotic, paranoid disappointment Jesse actually might’ve been, and not this awesome cowboy legend you might read about and enjoy following in a dime novel. So one of the basic messages one can sort of get out of this movie is “Don’t meet your heroes, because you’re just gonna be disappointed”. And that works as our christmas analogy, because as a kid you might be celebrating the holiday with your family, both immediate and extended. And all of a sudden Santa Claus shows up, lets kids sit on his lap, and give them presents. But then one of your dumbass cousins decides to tug at Santa’s beard and find out that it’s just your uncle in a cheap costume, and it turns out there is no actual magical lobster man. Bob getting to know Jesse is kind of the same thing. Instead of this magically awesome being he thought he knew, it turned out to be something a bit more disappointing. So “The Assassination of Jesse James” is a christmas movie in the sense that the truth about the legend is a fucking disappointment, just like Santa Claus.

The movie on the other hand isn’t a disappointment, it’s fucking fantastic. One of my favorites.

Have a good one.

Movie Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

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You alread know I love westerns, I have said it more times than one would like to hear about it. But those that you know I love (A.K.A. the ones I have reviewed/mentioned) are mainly your typical romanticized westerns, rather than a more serious and dramatic look at those times. So I am curious to see what I would think of a more serious and dramatic western. Where am I going with this? I am reviewing one of those today.

Ladies and gents… “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (What a mouthful).

This is one of those plots that has a climax that is impossible to spoil. Why? Because it is in hte fucking title! Sorry, didn’t wanna be mean, let’s just talk about the plot. Ever since he was a child, Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) has idolized the outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt). So when he joins his game at the age of 19, he of course finds it great. But over the years he starts to become more and more bitter about Jesse and eventually kind of resents him. Which of course leads to the event in the title of the movie, the murder of Jesse James as carried out by Robert Ford. And even basically knowing how it was gonna end, I was still riveted by the story. As the nerd that I am, I knew a lot about this with the whole Ford killing James and Ford’s eventual fate, but I was still stunned how well it was presented in this movie. What I liked about the story is how it never favored anyone and made them look like the good guy or the bad guy, everyone was in a more neutral space. The plot also hit me very hard with how emotional it could get and by how shocking it could be at times. And while I won’t compare it to “American History X”, it still had the effect on me as when I first watched that movie. And I love that feeling, when a movie manages to hit you very hard in every way possible.

The characters are all very entertaining to watch, but they also feel like they could be real people. Brad Pitt is fantastic as Jesse James, giving one of the best (in my opinion) performances of his career. Casey Affleck was also pretty fucking great in the movie. But I have also never seen him give a bad performance. We also got a fantastic supporting cast, all who give great performances, let me round ’em up. Sam Shepard, Mary-Lousie Parker, Sam Rockwell, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Schneider, this is a great cast and it was used perfectly. Everybody gets time to shine and I love it.

The score for the movie was done by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis and it might be one of the best ones I have ever heard. It manages to create a sense of dramatic tension while also being very emotional. It really manages to fit into every category perfectly. It is really the definition of a perfect score that not only fits the movie it’s used in, but also turns out to be overall fantastic.

I don’t wanna disappoint you, so I’ll talk about the shootouts since this technically is a western movie. They aren’t really the types of shootouts you usually see in westerns, these are smaller and a little more quiet. But they fit very well into it all since this isn’t a big, action-packed western, but more of a drama about characters set in western times. So the movie doesn’t really need shootouts, but the (small) ones in the movie are good and fit well enough.

This movie was written and directed by Andrew Dominik and I think he succeeded in both aspects. The writing is some of the most tight and well-written I have ever experienced in a movie. And the directing is pretty fantastic. The camera movements are fantastic and you see that Dominik has a lot of skill as a director despite only having directed one movie prior to this. I also love the cinematography by Roger Deakins, it looks fantastic (as usual), I especially love the shots they have in the big and open landscapes, they are incredibly beautiful.

This movie has been well-received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 76% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. Roger Ebert gave the movie 3,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,6/10. The movie was also nominated for 2 Oscars in the categories of Best Supporting Actor (Affleck) and Best Cinematography. 

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is not only a mouthful of a title, but it is also a pretty amazing movie. It has a terrific & emotional story, fantastic characters & performances, fantastic music, great direction, great writing and fantastic cinematography. Time for my final score. *Bang*. My final score for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is a 9,90/10. It definitely deserves the one and only “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is now reviewed.

The Assassination of What a Mouthful by Markus.