Director Andrew Dominik must be a fan of Terrence Malick. His film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford shares a lot of the same qualities of a Malick film: languidly paced, little or no dialogue in certain scenes, vast sweeping wide shots, voice over narration. Luckily, I love Malick and I loved this film. And I don't mean to compare Dominik to Malick in an insulting way or a copycat way, it just struck me that Malick must have been an influence on Dominik.
This film is long. 2 hours and 40 minutes long. Some critics have complained about the length, but I kinda loved it. It really allowed the story to unfold, diving deep into these characters and the idea of celebrity and to allow the viewer to come to terms with the true nature of Jesse James' brutality. It also allowed for an exquisite building of tension until the audience is wired and ready for the ultimate climatic explosion. I mean the title is The ASSASSINATION of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford! You know it's coming! You are waiting and waiting for it! And then it does come and the movie isn't over and that's awesome! Now we get to experience the aftermath and a new kind of celebrity.
This film is stunning in it's beauty. Gifted cinematographer Roger Deakins paints incredible murals of light and landscape. You can feel the changes in the seasons as you watch the film.
Brad Pitt, himself a ginormous celebrity, was the perfect choice to play Jesse James who was the biggest celebrity of his day. He's excellent in this...revealing little by little the downward spiral of Jesse's paranoia, his mean streak, and cold brutality. Casey Affleck shows us something in his Robert Ford that I've never seen from him before as an actor: effortlessness and subtlety. He portrays the giddiness and sadness of a man who never outgrew his childhood hero worship with amazing sincerity. The supporting cast is just as accomplished as the two leads: Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner, Mary-Louis Parker, Garret Dillahunt, Sam Shepard. They all embody their roles, big and small, with an honesty and passion.
I encourage you all to rent this film. Don't be intimidated by the length. Pop yourself some popcorn, open a can of soda, sink yourself into the deepest corner of your sofa and spend an evening letting this story unfold in front of you. It's worth the time.