Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 166 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford delves into the private life and public exploits of America's most notorious outlaw. As the charismatic and unpredictable Jesse James plans his next great robbery, he wages war on his enemies, who are trying to collect the reward money--and the glory--riding on his capture. But the greatest threat to his life may ultimately come from those he trusts the most. (Universal Pictures) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 32
  2. Negative: 1 out of 32
  1. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Though there is plenty of gunplay, this is a wondrously contemplative and poetic saga that offers a fresh and bewitching take on a timeworn genre.
  2. Pitt won the Best Actor award at Venice for his Jesse...Yet it's Affleck who impresses most as the wary, skittish Bob.
  3. It is a film, often breathtaking without settling for being pretty, filled with nervous silence.
  4. 63
    The movie dreamily conjures up the outlaw's last months, and it's gorgeous, but long, cumbersome, and slightly shallow.
  5. 60
    Although not as radically defamiliarizing as Jim Jarmusch's avant-western "Dead Man," Jesse James has the feel of an attic ransacked for abandoned knickknacks.
  6. 50
    Maybe the life was edited out of it in the two years between shooting and release, or maybe Dominik was simply overwhelmed by the outsized myths of the West, but the film only comes to life after James' death, when Ford quite literally takes center stage.
  7. 38
    A gorgeous snooze, somewhere between imitation Terrence Malick and a feature version of star Brad Pitt's notorious Vanity Fair layout with Angelina Jolie and their faux kids.

See all 32 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 50 out of 67
  2. Negative: 11 out of 67
  1. May 27, 2012
    Point blank, this is probably the single most underrated film in the last decade. Absolutely **** amazing, and one of the best movies I have EVER seen. The acting was beyond incredible, as was the cinematography, music, directing, writing, plot, and everything else. This is a true masterpiece. Expand
  2. RickS.
    Feb 20, 2008
    One of the films of the year. It blew me away with the masterful cinematography; there are some powerful shots in this. Say what you will of Brad Pitt, but he is a good actor. I must say I was surprised by Casey Affleck having 100 times the talent of his brother. I saw Atonement, and I still believe that a few of their Oscar nods should be replaced with this masterwork. Expand
  3. Johnny
    Nov 8, 2008
    Absolutely spellbinding. An endlessly interesting character study that's flawlessly written and directed. Casey Affleck delivers in this career-defining role, and both he and Brad Pitt give two of the most complex performances I've ever seen in cinema. I understand that this film will actually bore many people. It is described as a western but it is an artistic western. It is about the film-making; the story; the characters, and not about the all so cliched shoot-em-ups and explosions you see in old westerns. If you can handle art, and steer away from action for just a little bit, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" will truly move you if you can view this in the correct context. If historical accuracy means anything to you, this is THE film to watch. Expand
  4. Sep 26, 2011
    Some may find it tiresome (they should watch more action-packed Westerns then), for me it is the best Western ever made. Not that it's a perfect representation of the genre per se, but it's a perfect, psychologically energetic, beautiful drama about human nature, about identity, loneliness and friendship, fatherly bonds, rivalry, vulnerability and affection, and maybe above all, the human need of creating and believing in myths.
    Also probably the best acting I've ever seen in a Western, Casey Affleck is outstanding.
  5. ChadS.
    Feb 9, 2008
    In "Almost Famous", the late rock critic and founder of Creem magazine, Lester Bangs(Phillip Seymour Hoffman), advises his young protege to not make friends with the rock stars. William Miller(Patrick Fugit) doesn't heed his mentor's sage warning and gets chummy with lead guitarist Russell Hammond(Billy Crudup) of Stillwater. The Jesse James memorabilia that Robert(Casey Affleck) collects in his shoebox is the equivalent of the posters that hang on the budding rock critic's wall. Their idols, for the time being, exist only in the abstract. Although he doesn't visit his own home, the famous gunslinger's sudden appearance at the house of Wood Hite(Jeremy Renner) does echo Russell's surprise visit to the Miller residence at the end of the Cameron Crowe memoir. Bangs had told William to "be honest, and unmerciful" if he wanted to be a true friend. This is exactly what Robert does when he recreates his execution of Jesse James for the stage. Since "The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" plays like "Good Fellas"(the DeNiro character goes after all the airport heist participants just like how Jesse James eliminates his train robbery cohorts) more than any film that John Ford ever directed, it makes perfect sense that Robert shoots Jesse in the back. The Scorsese film informs us that gangsters are often shot by those closest to them. Since Jesse is Robert's friend(well, sort of; my ass-talkin' theory isn't airtight), he has the authority to kill. The staged play is equivalent to the article William writes about Stillwater. They're both non-fiction pieces; official documents of a true-life event. By not smudging the facts surrounding his vigilant gunfire, Robert respects his craft(assuming that playwriting and the dramatic arts are important to him) and the memory of his boyhood idol. Expand
  6. JayH.
    Feb 3, 2008
    6.5/10. Beautifully filmed, but very very slow and way overlong. The acting is great by everyone, the cinematography is superb. It has amazing period atmosphere. Very well written. I am sure the slow pacing was deliberate, but that doesn't prevent it from being boring at times. Most of the rating here is for the quality of the production. Expand
  7. ChristopherC.
    Feb 10, 2008
    I think the worst thing about the movie is that it fools some people into thinking it's intelligent and thoughtful. Watching these people calling this film 'high art' is a bit scary, and a little disheartening. This is intelligence? This is what art has become? I hope to God not. Please, give me a reason to hope not. Expand

See all 67 User Reviews