396 - The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford - 3 stars
I return to this film wondering if I had misjudged it on its release. Critics called it a "the best Western since Unforgiven" and a hark back to the days of films like Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. While many staff at the cinema raved about it, some made it their film of the year, I found it bloated, poorly paced and didn't feel emotionally connected to it.
Second time around, I liked it a lot more as there is so much to appreciate from a filmmaking perspective: Cinematography is absolutely stunning (between this and No Country For Old Men Roger Deakins had a very good year. Someone give this man an Oscar!), the music is great and the sound mixing terrific (one of the best films I've heard through the surround sound system at home), but the real highlights are the performances of Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck.
Casey looks to be overtaking his brother Ben in the acting talent stakes (sorry Ben, time to focus on your directing), and delivers a fascinating turn as the cowardly sycophant Robert Ford.
Brad Pitt does not get enough credit for being a great actor in my opinion. Nowadays it is all about 'Brangelina' and the giant adopted family, that people forget how good he is. In possibly his best performance since Fight Club, Pitt excels as the outlaw who slowly unravels as he is increasingly unable to cope with his own legend and celebrity (a case of life imitating art?). He is sensational in the scene towards the end where he puts a knife to Ford's throat.
However having said all that, I still feel that it is overlong and could have easily chopped around 20 minutes out and it would have been an even better film. I understand the first edit was around 4 hours long so I can be thankful that I didn't have to sit through that at the cinema... at least there is a pause button at home!