An extensively researched, immaculately photographed & thoroughly engrossing period piece that captures its bygone era with an equally mournful & mesmerising eye, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford chronicles the life of a legendary outlaw whose murder at the hands of one of his own men catapulted his legacy to a mythical status in American lore, and it also happens to be one of the finest westerns of 21st century.

Set during the 1880s, the story dramatises the life of Jesse James, spanning from his final train robbery to his assassination at the hands of Robert Ford, a young & starstruck recruit into his notorious gang who grew up idolising the famed outlaw but gradually becomes resentful of him and starts plotting his demise. The plot focuses on the relationship between the two, from their first meeting to the events leading to his death.

Written & directed by Andrew Dominik, the film is crafted with remarkable care and narrated with great composure, as the plot unfolds at an unhurried pace and allows plenty of space for the characters to breathe. Filmed in the same manner as earlier examples of its genre, each n every character gets sufficient screen time and their relationship with both James & Ford is wonderfully explored. And though the pace is slow & relaxed, it rarely becomes an issue.

What further enriches the experience is top-notch work in the technical department. The era-specific set design & aptly-chosen locations effortlessly transport us to the depicted timeline. Roger Deakins’ spellbinding camerawork casts a magical spell of its own, turning every frame into a breathtaking work of photography, plus the way its camera is utilised throughout the picture, especially in low-light conditions, is no short of an achievement.

Coming to the performances, the film packs a talented ensemble in Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider & more, with Pitt & Affleck stealing the show. Both actors deliver strong inputs in their individual roles but they are even more compelling as a duo, thanks to the arresting chemistry between the two that brims with a certain tension. Lastly, the film’s melancholic aura is all the more enlivened by its beautifully evocative score.

On an overall scale, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a work of first-rate craftsmanship that scores high marks in all filmmaking aspects and is one of the best films of its year. Powered by two stellar acts that easily ranks amongst the finest in the careers of both Pitt & Affleck, boosted by Roger Deakins’ innovative cinematography, and expertly steered by Andrew Dominik’s sophisticated direction, this fascinating meditation on fame & infamy paints an interesting portrait of an American mythology, and is absolutely worth your time & money.


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