The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a movie with a title that is much too long but fitting. Considered one of the most accurate portrays of the event that I knew nothing about before watching the film, this movie is a slow burn. It follows the last few months of Jesse James (Brad Pitt) life as he meets Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), does his last robbery, and goes through his own self-suffering. It is truly about the psychology of Jesse James and Robert Ford. Jesse James, who seems to be questioning himself and what he has done as he suffers through his own depression. Robert Ford, who has always been obsessed with the life of Jesse James even as a kid and the trauma he suffers through from killing his own idol.
The film runs for 2 hours and 40 minutes which is both bad and good. It allows for a great build-up to the fantastic last 40 minutes that are easily the best part of the film but it makes going through the first 2 hours rough at times. Some things definitely could have been cut out. I sometimes felt they spent too much time on other characters when in the end, it really own focuses on three characters. Jesse James, Robert Ford, and Charley Ford (Sam Rockwell). Also, much of the film is told through narration, not by any of the characters, but just a random narrator (Hugh Ross). Sometimes this narration feels incredibly forced and not needed. In some instances, I can tell what the characters are doing through visuals and don’t need a narrator telling me. It just feels like I’m being spoon fed information. Occasionally, the narration is needed, but I also felt they could have simply had some more character interaction instead to tell the story.
The performances by the entire cast truly are incredible though. Every actor is giving a top notch performance and doing fantastic things in this movie. Brad Pitt manages to handle being the dynamic character of Jesse James while displaying his depression and his criminal persona. Casey Affleck perfectly portrays the betrayal the character of Robert Ford has to suffer through perfectly. If anything, these performances make the characters feel real and human, rarely does Jesse James feel like a completely cold person even if he is a criminal. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous with beautiful imagery of fields, the sun, and snow and I’m not entirely surprised when we have a cinematographer like Roger Deakins who has been involved in nearly all of the Coen Brothers films and most recently did the cinematography for Skyfall. This film is truly worth watching even if the pacing could have been improved, it’s worth it for the last 40 minutes alone which truly delves into Robert Ford and his suffering at the end.