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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
I hope they donít cut down this lengthy, but self-explanatory title
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Brad Pitt Stars as Jesse James in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford".
OPENING WEEKEND: $10,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $35,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

September 11th, 2006: Along with his older brother Frank (Sam Shepard) and his friends Robert (Casey Affleck) and Charley Ford (Sam Rockwell) and Wood Hite (Jeremy Renner), Jesse James (Brad Pitt) runs the most feared gang of outlaws in the nation. As they carry out one daring bank robbery after another, they must escape not only from the law, but also from the numerous everyday folks eager to get their hands on the growing reward money. With time, James and his gang become revered by many and are even viewed as rebel heroes thanks to friendly publicity. The charismatic and unpredictable Jesse James emerges as somewhat of a glorified celebrity. As his fame escalates and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a low profile, he surrounds himself only with those individuals he can trust the most. Unbeknownst to him, the young Robert Ford, who once idolized him as a personal hero, has grown incredibly resentful of Jesse. Along with his brother Charley, he has hatched a plot to murder James hoping to take over his place.

What to Expect: Thanks to his daring escapes from even more audacious bank robberies across the country and his self-proclaimed paybacks in the name of the South following their defeat in the Civil War, Jesse James became a symbol of rebel defiance during the Reconstruction period. With time he even became a figure of folklore, so much so that former President Theodore Roosevelt once called him ďAmericaís Robin Hood.Ē Shortly before his death, James began to withdraw from the spotlight. He settled into a home life with his wife and with his two closest most trusted friends Robert and Charley Ford. He was fully unaware of Robertís inner turmoil as the young gangster, who once idolized James, had grown increasingly envious and resentful of his hero. The Ford brothers actually struck up a deal with the Missouri governor, Thomas T. Crittenden, to help him take out the dangerous outlaw. One day, when James happened to have taken his guns off in order to hang a picture up on the wall, Robert seized the opportunity and treacherously shot his former idol in the back. The Ford brothers were sentenced to hang, but were immediately pardoned by the governor. When news of a possible conspiracy against James reached the public, it became a stirring national sensation. General opinion had swayed and the outlaw became a respected hero and even legend, while Robert Ford was disgraced and went down in history as a cowardly Judas figure.

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The film is an adaptation of Ron Hansenís book under the same lengthy title. Thanks to his painstaking research, the author is able to bring vivid detail into a true tale that has now taken on mythic and frequently unreliable proportions. The book is not the standard romanticized view of the events, but rather a fully realized exploration of the personalities involved. It helps paint a complete picture of the characters and their motives and separates the truths from the myths. Some have argued that it is perhaps too detailed and does not feature enough plot development as indeed the author purposefully avoided focusing excessively on Jamesí adventures and exploits. Hansen instead wanted to get into the head of Robert Ford to understand his reasoning and see the story from his point of view. The simplistic notion of James as hero and Ford as coward is explored and proven fairly naÔve by the end. In its realistic depiction of violence, greed, ego, fame, and human psychology the book has been touted as Shakespearian in nature.

Reportedly, the filmmakers went through an exhaustive casting process for the picture as each actor was asked to read for several parts before the appropriate choices were made. Thanks to this role as well as the one in Babel, Brad Pitt appears to be returning to the type of interesting and challenging roles he frequently took on earlier in his career. The ladies in the audience will be interested to hear rumors that he appears nude in an extensive scene that shows him bathing while standing up. Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Oceanís Eleven, Oceanís Twelve), the less known and less disliked of the two Affleck brothers, is a fantastic choice to play Robert Ford. He has a gloomy stare that exudes a level of melancholy and underlying tension that should be perfect for the tortured assassin. Sam Shepard (Days of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, Bandidas), who plays Jesseís older brother Frank, is an ideal choice for any western, but at 63 he could play Pittís father. Mary-Louise Parker (Fried Green Tomatoes, The Client, Red Dragon), who has kept a low profile over the last several years, will play Zee James, Jesseís wife. Finally, in a role that has been called the moral center of the story, Jeremy Renner (S.W.A.T., Lords of Dogtown, North Country) will play Wood Hite, one of Jesseís gang members and the least morally corrupt of the bunch.

Iíve been thoroughly intrigued by the movie ever since I got hooked by the ominous teaser trailer. The filming took place in stunning locations in Canadian provinces of Alberta and Manitoba that should provide ideal backdrops for an elegant recreation of the time period. Director Andrew Dominik, whose only other feature, Chopper, explored the life of another infamous serial killer, the Australian Mark Brandon ĎChopperí Read, seems to be in familiar territory with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. However, judging by the director and by the book, this may not be the moody film that the teaser suggests, but rather a realistic and gritty portrayal of the events and times. The movie is likely to get an R rating and will probably be a psychologically heavy, modern take on the western genre. However, given the bookís point of view, the focal point of the film may be Ford and his torment following the assassination and not Brad Pittís Jesse James as many may be hoping.

In Conclusion: I think the movie will maintain a sense of mystery about the personal dynamics involved in the story, while also aiming at each step to explain them. The approach to study the events from Robert Fordís point of view should prove to be more than just interesting. It is somewhat reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption. There was always a slight mystery to Andy Dufresne, because his character was shown only from Redís point of view. If The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford takes the same approach then it could turn out to be a fascinatingly intriguing character study. The filmís release date keeps getting pushed back, which does not bode well, but hopefully this is not indicative of any post-production problems. Depending on when the studio decides to release this picture could be helpful in determining what audiences it will be aimed at. I sense a mature thriller for adults that will appeal to younger audiences thanks to the casting.

Similar Titles: The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Tombstone, Chopper
September 21st, 2007 (limited)
February 5th, 2008 (DVD)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Andrew Dominik

Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Mary Louise Parker, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Pat Healy, Ted Levine, Michael Parks

Total: 208 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Drama, War/Western

Click here to view site

Rated R for some strong violence and brief sexual references.

160 min





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