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  Publicity Stills of
"Assassination of Jesse James"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Action/Adventure and Western
Director: Andrew Dominik
Cast: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Renner, Paul Schneider, Sam Rockwell
RunTime: 2 hrs 40 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence and Brief Sexual References)

Official Website: http://www.jessejamesmovie.com

Opening Day: 24 January 2008


An action western surrounding the private life and public exploits of America's most notorious outlaw, Jesse James. As the charismatic and unpredictable outlaw plans his next great robbery, he wages war on his enemies, who are trying to collect the reward money--and the glory--that is riding on his capture. However, the greatest threat to Jesse's life may ultimately come from those he trusts the most.

Movie Review:

The dissipations of facades and masquerades come to the fore in the ponderously titled “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. Jesse James (Brad Pitt) tempers his blood reign over railroads and dusty towns with his guise as charming businessman Thomas Howard, substituting his inherent savagery for normalcy, gunslinging for churchgoing and gang for family. But that life will always be too much to ask from the restless James. A lifetime of cruelty and lawlessness leaves him the desire for martyrdom, one lasting act of infamy. Robert Ford (a pitch perfect Casey Affleck), the sycophantic young upstart to James’ gang and driven by his idolatry of his waning hero in James, seeks celebrity in the same way he incites it by introducing himself as a man "destined for great things". The eventual evanescence of this romanticised illusion leads to the nascent of pride and envy. The sudden act of psychosis (arguably by both parties) that leads to the film’s key marquee placement triggers the celebrity Ford craves which at once dispels the myth of both men while nonetheless immortalising them.

At a wizened 34 years of age, the fatigued James settles into iconic deification. An outlaw outweighed by the tides of legend and the tales of courage magnified by an audience enraptured by true stories of crime. Notoriety and celebrity bleed into each other. The idea carries a purview of our contemporary cultural import of fame and its cults of personalities. Writer-director Andrew Dominik is careful not to devolve its own overtextualised, and highly subjective mythos into filmic pablum. The attention to detail in the characters is frequently enriched with elements of fatalism until the ruptured fabrics of their environment are revealed through the pas de deux that transpires between James and Ford.

Dominik invokes the most prominent of all betrayals. Ford emerges as a cravenly Judas, slaying the one he professes undying love for. As the borderlines between passion and envy merge and fade into each other, it becomes clear that its plaintive pitch of veneration reaches into a reservoir of psychology gripping the two men from the moment James succumbs to his resurgent vanity. Arched by its metaphysical approach to its cinematography, it resonates the loaded relationship shared between them. The vast Midwestern fields during the 1880s provide the stage as dissonance is contemplated as an inevitable response to treachery.

Literally one long epilogue, Dominik bookends this sorrowful story of endings and beginnings with a credo of blood ties. And at an overextended 160 minutes, the film bears witness to more than just its eponymous killers. Insights abound in its narrative sprawl, from Robert’s brother Charley (Sam Rockwell) to Jesse’s own kin, Frank (Sam Shepard). Steeped in its own conceptual enigma, Dominik ruminates, very slowly and sombrely on strained dynamics and popular culture. Seeping pathos into a visually extravagant canvas, Dominik tells a brutally honest tale on the price of iconography and opportunely creates an antidote for the balefully emblematic and misbegotten “American Gangster”.

Movie Rating:

(A rewarding experience for the patient, builds to a powerful climax)

Review by Justin Deimen


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. American Gangsters (2007)

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