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Based on Ron Hansen‘s book The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Andrew Dominik’s film of the same name covers the last days in the life of legendary outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt). Just before the last train robbery by the James Gang, Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) joins Jesse James, Frank James (Sam Shepard) und his brother Charley Ford (Sam Rockwell), already a member of the gang. Bob Ford is idolizing Jesse James since his childhood, has read every publication about Jesse and has always dreamt about riding with the James Gang.
Bob is different from the other men in the James Gang – he is a dreamer and a romantic and rather shy compared with the simple but harder fellow outlaws, but convinced he is special and destined for greatness. Jesse accepts him in his gang nonetheless, and Bob and his brother Charley become members of the inner circle of the James Gang.
But Bob is more than just a fan of the original American Celebrity – he is obsessed with Jesse James, and he doesn’t want to just become like Jesse – it seems he wants to become Jesse James.
Then the law is closing in on Jesse, and he gets rid of former gangmembers who might hand him over to the Pinkerton detectives. The tension is rising when Jesse becomes increasingly wary and suspicious, and Bob and Charley become more and more afraid of becoming his next victims, especially because Bob has already made a deal with the Governor to turn Jesse in.

Jesse James is dead, but the often declared dead western is not. The Assassination of Jesse James is an epic western – the title is not the only thing that’s long, it’s running for 160 minutes – revelling in the wide landscapes and skies of the west (actually it was lensed in western Canada) and the larger-than-life story of Jesse James, who was a legend already at his lifetime.
Beautifully photographed and superbly acted, it’s a study of friendship, obsession, fear and betrayal with career-best performances by Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck – and of the wide, wild landscapes of the west.
Slow, with sparingly used action and a hardly surprising story (it’s all in the title), the battle of the personalities is all it takes. Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Jesse as a charismatic, confident, strong-willed man, superior in intellect and courage, but also with a tendency to violent outbreaks, makes it easy to understand why Jesse James was a legend already at his lifetime. He was one of the first celebrities and one of the last men with the spirit of the free, wild west. But ultimately he was as doomed as this west, sorted out by a new type of man – less violent and less courageous, adoring the strength, freedom and fierceness of the men of the old west, but at the same time beholding them with fear and jealousy.
All this and more is visible in the eyes, the faces, and every gesture of Pitt and Affleck – which makes it worth devoting 160 minutes of your life to a movie.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Movie Trailer

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