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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

One of the year's best movies
By RICHARD BECK  |  October 5, 2007

VIDEO: Watch the trailer for The Assassination of Jesse James.

In Andrew Dominik’s revisionist Western, Jesse James is not a character. He’s a monument, a nearly invisible stone-faced myth. It’s not that Brad Pitt doesn’t command the screen as Missouri’s Confederate-outlaw avenger. He’s the perfect choice for the role: just as Casey Affleck’s gracefully childish Robert Ford can never forget that it’s Jesse Goddamn James in the room, neither can an audience let its grotesquely handsome leading man turn into who the script says he is. Jesse’s unknowability is this film’s sturdy foundation. The rest is mood and shades of half-grasped revelation, helped along by cinematographer Roger Deakins’s austere, Bergman-inspired interiors and oddly threatening Western skies. With slowly unfolding dramatic tension, unforced pathos, wry humor, and a gentle, tragic cynicism, this existential Western is one of the year’s best movies.
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