TIFF ’07: More On The Assassination of Jesse James

Ok, so a little more about Kiwi director Andrew Dominik’s astonishingly good sophomore outing (after 2000’s Chopper) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. To be honest, it’s 2:10am and I have to see Sean Penn’s Into the Wild in 9 hours, so I am a little worried about getting sucked into a 1,500 word review of this film that I (and others) have called a masterpiece, but I have too long a history of letting things get away from me, so here we go….
The trades and mainstream press have been bemoaning the dearth of “buzz worthy” pics leading into Oscar season this year and well, they can all shut the fuck up right now, thank you very much. As I was leaving the theater, the editor in chief of one of the major trade dailies turned to me and said, and I paraphrase: “It’s hard to imagine a better film coming out this year,” and I fully concur. If this film gets fewer than 10 Oscar nods, I’ll eat my hat (just not one of my good ones). Right now I am willing to predict nods for: picture, actor (x2-Pitt and Affleck), screenplay and director (both Dominik), cinematography (Roger Deakins), score (Nick Cave and Bad seeds bandmate Warren Ellis), editors (Dylan Tichenor and Curtiss Clayton) and at least 1 supporting actor (too many to choose). Of course many of the “smaller” categories will come along with main category nominations.
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 3.JPG
I’ll be writing something more about this tomorrow, but for now, I must be brief.

This film should prove, once and for all, that Brad Pitt, in all of his not-yet 44 year-old glory, is one of the finest actors we have. His range is prodigious and his eyes hold more emotion and communicate more pain and conflict than most actors produce verbally. He embodies loving father, enraged thief, paranoid outlaw, jocular everyman, brutal taskmaster and resigned, tired gunslinger within the film’s perfectly reasonable 160-minute length and all with impeccable expertise.
Casey Affleck is, simply put, a revelation. In his opening awkward back-and-forth with Sam Shepard’s Frank James, he establishes Robert (Bob) Ford’s peculiar delivery and child-like devotion to Jesse and the James Gang from which all of Ford’s actions are derived. He has collected and memorized every dime store novel about the ‘great” Western outlaw and he’ll be damned if he isn’t going to join his gang. From the get go, Affleck has you in the palm of his hand and his is a deft and subtle portrayal of a sycophantic weakling, cum star assassin.
This film is so extraordinary that even the mouthy title begins to take on serious poetic reverence. Much more about this film, including the cinematography, supporting roles and the poetry of the dialog (“You can hide things in vocabulary.”) later on….
Yeah. I loved it.

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