Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Real Bang Up Job

Jesse James was like the evil Brad Pitt of his day, and with no US Weekly or Perez Hilton around to immediately document his exploits, his legend only loomed larger because of how stories of his crimes were passed on. So it makes perfect sense that in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, James is played by the male half of Brangelina himself, Mr. Pitt. In this very Terrence Malick–esque film, Robert Ford (the very good Casey Affleck) works his way into his idol's gang and attempts to befriend James. But Ford learns that the legend and the man are two very different things, and soon he's plotting against James to bring him down.

Yes, that's a very long title. It's also a very long movie (2:40). But like a good Malick film (The Thin Red Line, for example, not The New World), this is slow and deliberately paced — with many shots of the sky and moving clouds — without being interminable. There's a folksy-sounding narrator that can slow down the proceedings (and every time his voice chimes in, the film goes to a fisheye-type lens that blurs the focus on the edges of the frame), but the story is compelling enough that it doesn't really drag. Pitt makes a good Jesse James; he plays him rough and edgy, letting James come off as the questionably worthy celebrity that he is, and just as Ford takes him off the pedestal, so do we as viewers.

The story of the assassination of Jesse James has been previously immortalized in the song "Jesse James," which Bruce Springsteen sang on his Seeger Sessions album. It's a great song and a great cover of the song. The movie version of the story is also quite good, and I'm going to give TAoJJbtCRF a B+.



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