The Good

One of the best films I've ever seen.

The Bad

Zero special features is understandable but one can't help but wish there was something. It's still not enough for me to lower the score of this DVD.

As a fan of the western genre I look forward to pretty much every western I hear is in the works since they come so few and far between nowadays. I am also a huge fan of Sergio Leone and Terrence Malick; two directors who use extremely long takes with exquisite deep focus photography. I had never heard of Andrew Dominik until I researched this film, and when I checked his history and saw that he had only done one other film called Chopper I felt skeptical as to what he would do with The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. Then I saw the trailer which sent chills up my spine and even made my eyes water, and this film became my top priority for the fall.

The film follows Robert Ford and two of his brothers as they join the James brothers for one final robbery. Robert Ford played brilliantly by Casey Affleck sees Jesse James as his idol. He followed his stories throughout his childhood and he wants nothing more than to be accepted by this man. Affleck portrays Ford as a very insecure and quiet man who almost feels ashamed for being himself. Being the youngest of five brothers one can assume he is tired of being at the bottom and one day wants the fame and attention that someone like Jesse James gets. Brad Pitt plays the complex Jesse James brilliantly with a performance that will send chills up your spine. His character is pretty hard to analyze. One can infer that James is a man who enjoys his reputation but sometimes longs for a life without the attention so that he can be happy with his wife and family. Another important character in this film is that of Charley Ford who is played by the great Sam Rockwell. With this film Rockwell proves he is capable of amazing things as an actor. He adds many dimensions to the character that otherwise would be meaningless to the overall plot. Charley Ford is just as complex as his brother Robert Ford or Jesse James. The cast is overall amazing and each person involved with this film puts on the performance of their career.

As the story progresses things become more and more tense. It's important to note how Dominik handles a film where the ending is given away in the title. The movie isn't for everyone. The 2 hour and 40 minute running time may ward of some movie goers, but it's nothing to be intimidated by. I did see a few people walk out of the screening I went to, which always strikes me as rude no matter what you think of the film. Dominik handled this project very much in a way that Terrence Malick handled The Thin Red Line. The characters are more focused than in a Malick film, but the structure is very similar. This film is all about the characters, which is why we almost forget that Jesse James dies at the hand of Robert Ford in the end. Everything leads up to that moment, which as a scene by itself is breathtaking. I don't think I have trembled in my seat as much as I did with that scene; truly crafted by a masterful filmmaker.

Creatively speaking the most important thing to note is Roger Deakins' absolutely stunning cinematography. I have never seen a more beautifully shot film in my entire life of watching movies. The colors and the lighting are just so phenomenal. The use of soft focus while contrasted with incredible deep focus shots blew me away. The most amazingly shot scene is definitely the train robbery at the beginning where everything is lit by lanterns and every light source glows with radiance. I am calling it now that this film will win Deakins an Oscar, because if it doesn't then I will lose considerable respect for the Academy. No one can deny the brilliance of the cinematography in this film and how it paints a deep layer of emotion for the story.

Another creative marvel of the film is the haunting score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The duo caught my attention with their gritty score to the Australian made western, The Proposition. Once I heard that they were doing this film it became even higher priority for me to see. The score is very interesting in that there isn't that much score in the nearly 3 hour film. There were three central themes they played throughout to basically create atmosphere and create transition points in the narrative; although their score during the assassination scene is the real reason why it's as brilliant as it is. It's a score that truly deserves people's attention and is worth owning when it's released.

Features

None. As a filmmaker I would have loved to see something just because the technical aspects of this film from a creative standpoint are amazing. I would have loved to see some interviews from Andrew Dominik, Roger Deakins, Nick Cave and Warren Eliis, and the cast. No features is understanable though considering the interest level in the film and the fact that the movie is almost 3 hours and WB probably didn't want to invest in a 2-Disc set. Maybe if it sells well enough we may get a double-dip.

Video

WB always has stunning transfers and nothing of Roger Deakins' brilliance is lost. Colors and saturation are all perfect. There are no signs of compression or any flaws. This is a perfect transfer.

Audio

You have a standard 5.1 mix. There isn't much action in the film that utilizes the surround speakers, but the brooding score by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis sounds mighty great as it slowly grows on you. Ambient sounds come across great as well and dialogue is clean and centered.

Package

The DVD comes in the standard single disc case. The artwork is pretty good and is consistant with the theatrical one sheet. The quote slapped on the front is a bit of an eye sore though.

Final Word

I was shaken by this film; it really got to me. The raw power of the visuals and the performances take the audience on a haunting character exploration of idolization and self dignity. This isn't a typical western of the genre and it really isn't a revisionist western either. It's unique and original and you will not forget this film. Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt and Sam Rockwell give the performances of their careers. Andrew Dominik's meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship proves his capability of being a great filmmaker. Top it off with the genius photographic talents of Roger Deakins and the musical brilliance of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and you have one of the greatest films I have seen in my life. This is a masterpiece.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was released September 7, 2007.