Monday, February 22, 2010
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
I really liked this movie. I've read alot of reviews where people were were unhappy with the length of the film, with the pacing, and the fact that the actors seemed to take forever to spit their lines out. I know how they feel in this situation, having being bored to death recently watching "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", but I've got to say that I was glued to the screen from start to finish with this movie. I love character studies for some reason. And alot of people might argue the fact that this might not be the greatest character study ever made, but these types of films generally draw me in quite easily.
The plot: Robert Ford(Casey Affleck) at age twenty is a keen admirer of the legendary outlaw Jesse James(Brad Pitt). He's practically in love with guy, you get the feeling that he wants to BE Jesse James. Most people have heroes, but this guy is obsessed. He wants to join the James gang in their latest escapade: a train robbery. Frank and Jesse run the gang of low level criminals looking to make an easy buck. Frank thinks Bob hasn't "the ingredients" to make it in the gang, but Jesse is flattered into taking in Bob. After the robbery, Jesse let's Bob stick around for his own amusement, and tells his other associates to leave. After a few days, Bob's obssesiveness creeps Jesse out, and Jesse tells him to leave. From here on out, Bob Ford starts to see his hero in a different light. On a few occasions when they cross paths again, Jesse taunts and embarrasses Bob. Bob developes a sort of love/hate relationship with Jesse. Meanwhile Jesse's former associates are planning on turning in him to collect a bounty. Jesse, the clever guy that he is, senses that his "pals" might be plotting against him. He surrounds himself with stupid people, guys that are too cowardly to "do something", namely Bob. We see Jesse struggling with depression and paranoia for the remainder of the film. He feels trapped, like he knows what's coming and it's just a matter of time before it happens. Being the smart guy that he is, he decides to groom Bob as his murderer. Suicide by another person's hand. He'll be remembered as a legend, Bob will fill the role as Judas. The title of the movie could nearly be called "The assassination of Robert Ford, by the Legendary Jesse James".
Brad Pitt is very convincing as Jesse James. For the most part, we listen into his posse's conversations. They're afraid, they're always plotting their next move behind his back, and it's great when we see Jesse confront them. He sits in the room and just observes them, while they fidget around, mumble their words, make up stories. Jesse sees straight through them all. Jesse James knows people. Like any great leader, his strength lies in knowing how people work. The dishonesty of their actions are as clear as day to him. And for the most part he plays along with their bullshitting, but quietly ticking away in the back of his mind, he's scheming, plotting and evaluating the situation. Then we have Jesse's fall into depression and it is well acted by Pitt.
It's not what you might expect out of a film made about Jesse James. Just one solitary train robbery. No great shootouts. And the point of the film really is Robert Ford's unnatural obssession with Jesse James. At one point Jesse says it out plainly "Do you want to be like me.....or do you want to BE me?" It's a film about the role of heroes, and about relying on them too heavily and not relying on yourself. The honest man in the movie is Jesse James, even though he plays along with the falseness sometimes. Every other person that he's around wears a mask. But Jesse sees through it all. The only exception to this is Robert Ford. But he's only honest because he's stupid. He hasn't the ability to put on an act. And his stupidity is his downfall.