MOVIEGOER REVIEW: "The ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD"
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," doesn't hide it's plot. It about preceisely what the title describes. Based on the book of the same title by Ron Hansen, New Zealander Andrew Dominik's examination of the events leading up to one of American folklore's most curious moments is moody, isolating, spooky and beautiful. In short, it's brilliant work of art.
The films stars Brad Pitt as the famed outlaw and Casey Affleck, who also demonstrated him pristine acting chops in "Gone Baby Gone" earlier this year, as Bob Ford. Dominik, in only his second effort behind the camera, has pushed the arthouse limits of the traditional western. In doing so, he adapted techniques that illuminate even the film's darkest moments. It is impossible to avoid the comparison to Terrence Malick, perhaps the finest moving image artist of our time. Like Malick, Dominick sees the beauty in fields of wheat, barren land and trees. But his influences don't stop there. John Ford, the impeccable western film director in cinema, is duly honored with multiple interior doorway shots looking back out into the daytime sky.
In addition to the it's aesthetic majesty, the acting is pretty impressive also. Mr. Affleck gives one of the finest supporting performances of the year, outshining Mr. Pitt (who received an acting award at the Venice Film Festival) scene after scene. And that says something because Mr. Pitt, a very fine actor in his own right, play James with a eerie sensibility, as if constantly shadowboxing the devil inside him. Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepard and Mary-Louise Parker all lend credibility to the film with their subtle, fine performances.
This isn't a shoot 'em up, bang bang western. It's a haunting inspection of man soufled in one of American cinema's oldest genres, and one of the year's most pleasurable films.