2007 was a very good year for Westerns with 3:10 to
, There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men all joining The Assassination of Jesse James in being released in that year. While Jesse James is a good film, I believe that it is the weakest of this quartet. Yuma
The film focuses on the last few years of the life of famed Outlaw Jesse James, played by Brad Pitt. Pitt is joined by a strong ensemble cast which includes Sam Rockwell and Casey Affleck as James’ assassin, Robert Ford.
The first thing that needs to be said about this film is that as with many modern takes on the Western, it looks stunning. Vast open plains are shot with a fantastic use of natural light and artificial light is superbly used during a scene in which the James Gang attack and rob a train during the night.
The acting is also top notch. Rockwell plays his oft seen ‘crazy guy on the edge’; Affleck is well cast as the young, impressionable Robert Ford who is out to prove himself to his idol, Jesse James, who Pitt plays perfectly. He has the audience on the edge of their seat, guessing about his next move and when his mostly quiet and thoughtful Outlaw will next burst into anger like a bullet from a six-shooter.
One of the problems with the film is that because you know that it is about an assassination you are waiting for it to come for the entire film and as a result the rest of the plot just washes over you. When the assassination finally does come it is well played but the final act of Ford’s life after the shooting I felt was only skimmed over.
In the end, the film lacks Yuma's punch, No Country's madness and There Will Be Blood's tension but overall this is a film that is well worth watching, if only for the performances of Affleck and Pitt and the beautiful countryside in which it is filmed.