The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The title pretty well sums up the plot of writer-director Andrew Dominik’s film (from the novel by Ron Hansen), running from the day in September 1881 when the 19-year-old Ford (Casey Affleck) met the famous train and bank robber (Brad Pitt) to seven months later, when Ford, convinced that Jesse was planning to kill him, decided to beat him to the draw. Dominik’s movie is long—and hardly your standard action-packed western—but it rewards any necessary patience, offering a stark, clear-eyed picture of outlaw life in the real wild west. Performances are excellent, and the movie feels authentic in every detail, from the brutal thud of black-powder gunfire to the echo of voices in a threadbare Missouri farmhouse. Sam Shepard plays Jesse’s brother Frank, and Sam Rockwell is Ford’s brother Charley.