The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Ron Hansen

Well, what do you think it’s about? the last days (actually, about a year) of Jesse James’ life.

This movie was kind of a surprise to us; we actually saw it in a theater, something that’s getting rarer and rarer chez Otter, but it was Mr. Otter’s birthday so we decided to do something wild and crazy. Drove all the way across town to the last theater that was still showing this, dealt with the Parking Lot from Hell, and shared some of what we in our day used to call Bon Bons when they were big, and are called something else now that they are tiny…but they are still good. Ice cream and chocolate, yum.

But I digress.

So there we were, waiting to see this western. Now, I love westerns as a genre. Horses, vistas, exciting gunfights, terse exchanges, lots of eye contact. We knew what to expect.

Except, well, this one is very different. For one thing, there is hardly any violence, and what there is happens very quickly, almost shockingly, and then is over.

What is there instead? you may well ask.

Hold on to your hats, kids. It’s full of CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. A three hour movie that focuses on the relationship between James and the men who will eventually kill him, Bob and Charley Ford (no, this is not a spoiler, given not only the general knowledge of this incident in popular culture but the TITLE of the movie) and the people around them, mostly James’ family and his gang, of which the Fords are members.

And we chez Otter have always considered Brad Pitt to be a darn good actor. And still think so to this day. But damn, he didn’t hold a candle to Casey Affleck. WHAT a fine actor. To take this insecure jealous wanna-be hero-worshiper and make him fascinating…I can’t wait to see what Affleck will grow into. He kept looking to me like a combination of Jude Law and Joaquin Phoenix, and that is certainly not a bad thing in my book.

Just about the whole movie is conversation, beautiful (mostly snowy) landscapes, and moody cello music. Seriously. It was very slow and thoughtful, and a fine movie in every respect except that, of course, all the people who thought they were going to see a traditional western hated it and it disappeared from the theaters in about five minutes.

Rent this and watch it, it’s intelligent and interesting. Probably not something you will want to see twice, but this Otter highly recommends it at least once.

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