I reckon about half of my mates have seen the 2007 film The Assasination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford which is crazy, bordering on embarrassing, when you consider how stacked the cast is and how slick the film is. It’s such a masterpiece that it’s honestly gonna be hard not to just talk nerdy film shit when covering the reasons you should watch it… but I’ll do my best.
Based on the 1983 book by Ron Hansen, Jesse James is one of the oldest and darkest tales of sycophantic fandom known to man. As the title suggests it’s about the months before the famed real-life outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) is murdered by admirer-turned-adversary Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) in 1882. It’s a cat and mouse story that’s tense, sombre and violent, with voice-over narration that would make Morgan Freeman proud.
Upon release the film bombed, making only $4 million in the US, but since when does the general public know shit, right? Brad himself said it’s his “favourite movie” which is all we need. Stop scrolling through your streaming service and bothering with crud like Nine Perfect Strangers, here’s why you oughta be watching this modernised western classic:
Though his roles in Fight Club, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Se7en and Inglourious Basterds are some of my favourite by any actor, the stuff Brad does in this film goes beyond all of them. It feels like there’s always something in the back of Jesse’s mind (like his impending death) that is anchoring him in darkness throughout the movie and Brad nails it.
The Aussie duo drop one of the finest movie scores you’ll ever hear. You could literally “watch” this film with your eyes closed and still have a good time. Nick even makes a little cameo:
For all of Brad Pitt’s acting, it’s Casey Affleck who steals the show. Completely awkward, creepy and slippery, it’s the performance that started him on his path to becoming an Oscar winner. But he’s not alone, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner and Paul Schneider – all in the mid to early stages of their careers – deliver fine performances. Fuck. This is getting nerdy.
Arguably the greatest ever cinematographer, Roger Deakins dropped this film and No Country For Old Men in the same year, and despite them both being high-stakes westerns, they are completely different stylistically and equally as impressive. He won an Academy Award for No Country, but I reckon they should have given him a second one purely for the shots of the train heist in Jesse James. My gawd:
Is this a copout? Maybe. But the anxiety you feel when watching this film is not for the faint of temperament. You watch comedy for the lols, horror for the screams, but this film – with its epic cast, beautiful shots and haunting soundtrack – you watch to feel uncomfortable. Enjoy.