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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford(2007)
'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' delves into the private life and public exploits of the United States' most notorious outlaw. As the charismatic and unpredictable Jesse James plans his next great robbery, he wages war on his enemies, who are trying to collect the reward money – and the glory – riding on his capture. But the greatest threat to his life may ultimately come from those he trusts the most.
For more about The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray release, see the The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 23, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Andrew Dominik
Writer: Andrew Dominik
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mary-Louise Parker, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard
» See full cast & crew
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray Review
A brilliant film appears on a lackluster Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 23, 2009
I can't figure it out...you wanna be like me, or you wanna be me?
The steady rise of the Western back into the embracing arms of moviegoers both old and young is a welcome phenomena in the recent history of Hollywood. The genre now produces a steady stream of upper-echelon films that hearken back to the roots of both its (and cinema's) glory days when John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Gene Autry graced the screen. The new wave of Western retains the old-time charm and rough-and-tumble attitude of the best of the classics, but does so with a welcome influx of new filming techniques, special effects, and sound design. In the midst of this revival is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, an epic picture to be sure, though not necessarily in the traditional sense of the term. It is an epic of characterization, of solemnity, and of fine filmmaking. Certainly not a traditional Western, the film rises above the genre, set during and looking as part of the genre, but at the same time eschewing many of the contrivances, clichés, and traditional structure of the typical Western film. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is more than a genre picture, the material simply nestled into a particular time period, which lends to the film a certain look and feel that makes it, in a way, a Western, at least on the surface. The film is really a character study, a look at hero worship from the perspective of two individuals on either side of it, about a man's struggle to find peace, and another's search for his place in the world, a world that he imagines one way and finds to be a whole other.
The world-famous outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt, Interview With the Vampire) finds himself the object of hero worship by the wet-behind-the-ears, eager-to-please, and borderline obsessive Robert "Bob" Ford (Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone). Bob's only wish is to become part of the gang, a gang that is soon to part ways. Rejected by Jesse's brother Frank (Sam Shepard, Black Hawk Down), Rob turns his attentions to Jesse, the man he has idolized his entire life, still to this day collecting Jesse James memorabilia and storing it in a box underneath his bed. Jesse at first seems tickled by the boy's affections, but soon turns him away, sensing in him the same feelings of betrayal that took the outlaw by surprise years earlier. Bob's admiration turns to curiosity, which in turn becomes anger and fear, leading him to an inevitable date with destiny as one of America's most infamous assassins.
First things first, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford represents fine filmmaking in nearly every facet. This is first-class storytelling, a magical movie experience that witnesses the amalgamation of everything done absolutely right. Nick Cave's and Warren Ellis's (The Road) score consistently plays in perfect harmony with the visuals, itself an instrument of the film that conveys the story as well as any other segment of the experience. The cast is expertly directed by Andrew Dominik, and the individual performances never fail to impress. Brad Pitt offers a dark, compelling performance as Jesse James, though his opposite, Casey Affleck in an Oscar-nominated performance, easily steals the show. Few films allow an actor to show such a progression, and perhaps even fewer can pull it off quite like Affleck does here. His almost childlike enthusiasm and clingy personality, particularly around his idol, is displayed in every scene, the actor never once playing the character as too exaggerated or phony, combining the gusto, uncertainty, fear, and indeed the entire spectrum of emotions the character experiences throughout the film, flawlessly. Lastly, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford benefits greatly from its Oscar-nominated and win-worthy cinematography, courtesy of the legendary Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption). Every scene is like fine art. The bright and breezy daytime shots and the cold, foreboding nighttime exteriors that lead up to a beautifully staged and filmed train robbery sequence near the open of the film are evidence of the first-rate cinematography, alone reason enough to watch.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is nearly as long a film as its title, running over two-and-a-half hours, though that time allows for the film to develop at the methodical pace that makes it the picture it is, and needs to be. The film is complex in its details, but simple in its sustained, complete arc. It is packed with numerous characters, stories, and settings, but the theme of the film is never left in doubt, nor is its resolution. The film is fairly unique in that its title gives away the climax, a climax that is expected but still shocking, the moment building for over two hours and just like that, the film reaches its zenith, and begins a dénouement nearly as fascinating as the story leading up to it. The final minutes of the film play out as almost a miniature rendition of the tale played out previous, focusing on Bob's life after the assassination. It's a remarkable segment of moviemaking, as its overriding themes parallel those of the first acts of the film. In a way, Bob's hero worship comes full circle; Jesse's rhetorical question to young Bob during their first meeting, "you wanna be like me, or you wanna be me?" proves prophetic, for Bob does indeed experience both, in a way becoming the man he admired, in more ways than one.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray, Video Quality
The 160-minute 1080p Blu-ray presentation of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford comes cramped on a single-layer BD-25 disc. The image often looks good at a glance, and some parts of it are truly stunning, thanks in large part to the lush cinematography that graces the entire film. Nevertheless, there are a few problems, some of them excusable. For example, a deliberately weakened image accompanies the narration, the result almost looking like the corners are smothered in cooking oil. Figures are outlined in a blue glow, and details are completely washed out. Most of the movie sports a normal appearance, one that is often accompanied by a lush, golden hue; outdoor shots in particular often feature stunning color reproduction. Even interior shots feature a noticeable golden hue. Still, close-up shots reveal some smoothness that washes away part of the details on faces, but there are times when the disc features a level of detail that borders on the marvelous, including the texture of a snake and a cluster of tall-bladed grass that stands out so clearly that they are liable to be counted with the disc on pause. Some edge enhancement is to be found, though how much of a distraction it will be will likely vary from viewer to viewer. Black levels do manage to hold up nicely. This is not a horrendous transfer by any stretch of the imagination, saved primarily by the gorgeous cinematography and shooting locations. The Blu-ray is adequate, but could have been so much more.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford rides onto Blu-ray with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the lack of a lossless option both disheartening yet not surprising considering the film is presented on a BD-25 disc from Warner Brothers. The basics, for example dialogue reproduction, are solid, but the finer details of the soundtrack feel lost. Leaves rustle and wind blows, the sound more a jumble rather than any clear and defined presence. There are plenty of good atmospherics effects, such as the chirping of insects and the singing of birds, that play out well enough through the front speakers, but with little presence in the rear channels. The track does open up when the score streams through the soundstage. It features a good, but not great, presence, with a suitable level of bass and rear-channel accompaniment. As the film moves on, the soundtrack becomes more subtle, primarily dialogue-driven and center-channel heavy but nevertheless retaining a palpable presence across the soundstage. A scene in chapter 18 offers a slight blowing wind that adds a nice atmosphere to the scene, in addition to a few good directional effects that, while not dramatic, add some welcome attention to detail to the presentation. The sound design is very good, and could have enjoyed a nice boost from a lossless mix, but all things considered, the track is fine, just not what it could have been.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford features only one supplement. The Assassination of Jesse James: Death of an Outlaw (480p, 31:48) is a strong but not exceptional supplement that features a selection of historians and cast and crew recounting the life and exploits of Jesse James. No other features are included, not even a trailer.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Though a poor performer at the box office, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is nevertheless a triumph of filmmaking, a beautifully-crafted and thought-provoking picture that develops slowly but surely, taking full advantage of each frame to guarantee an amalgamation of talents and qualities that make it a fascinating and unique motion picture experience. This isn't a typical Western, the story merely playing around the genre rather than being completely confined by it. The film offers Oscar-nominated acting and cinematography, and a nomination-worthy score, story, and direction as well. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a must-watch film, particularly by film aficionados, and despite the shortcomings of this Blu-ray presentation, it is the best way to view it at home. This disc features a somewhat flawed, but ultimately watchable and mostly enjoyable, high definition presentation, a suitable soundtrack, and a disappointing bonus section. Still, the film, as always, is the most important part of the package, and based on its merits alone, this disc is deserving of a spot in every distinguished Blu-ray collection.
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• Assassination of Jesse James Gets Moved Up - January 16, 2008
Warner Home Video has revealed that the DVD and Blu-ray release of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' will now be released on February 5th instead of the initially announced date of February 26th. The move is likely to take advantage of ...
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