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First of all, I can understand some people not liking this movie. It's pace and style is not just for everybody but having said that, I personally absolutely loved it!

Most important thing to know is that this is not a western at all. At least not in the classic sense of the word. It just happens to be a movie that is set in the old west but features none of the typical genre clich├ęs and familiar ingredients. This movie can be more looked upon as a history lesson, being told by some skillful film-makers, both in front and behind the camera's.

And that's basically what this movie is; an historical retelling of the Jesse James story, or even a biopic, if you will. And it at all times remains a very authentic feeling and looking one. This means that nothing ever gets exaggerated or glorified. No heroic shootouts or brave characters without fear in this movie. It instead features very real human characters of flesh and blood, with all of their emotions and imperfections. It's not a movie that is in love with its subject but it only, again, tries to tell a true story about true people and where needed, gives its own interpretations on how certain things probably would had transpired, about 120 years ago.

And here lies the movie's greatest strength; its authentic look and feeling. And thankfully this also all can be seen back in the movie its characters. I just loved how it showed the good and bad sides of both Jesse James and Robert Ford and how the movie was never picking sides for any of them. It instead tried to create some understanding and sympathy for both of the characters and the movie really succeeded beautifully with this.

But this all is also obviously thanks to its actors, who portray all of the movie its most important characters. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are both really perfect in their roles. Casey Affleck even got nominated for an Oscar and when you see this movie it's not so hard to see why really. He plays a pretty complex and hard character with much conviction. But with all this talk about Affleck and Pitt, people tend to forget all about Sam Rockwell, who I aways think deserves far more credit than he's ever receiving.

It's no spoiler of course that in the end Jesse James is getting killed by Robert Ford. After all, this is in the movie its title! But I must say that the entire execution of it (no pun intended) and the build up to it is done incredibly. It's both really tense and powerful and you're literally holding your breath when it's 'finally' happening. I was absolutely loving the movie its final 30 minutes or so but by saying that I'm not saying that I was bored or not as happy with the movie its first 2 hours.

Even though it's a really slowly told movie and doesn't feature much action in it, I can't say that it ever felt like a boring or overlong movie. It was always an interesting movie to watch, thanks to the dynamics between the characters and the way the entire movie got shot and told by director Andrew Dominik, who only makes movies once every few years.

And lets not forget about Roger Deakins' cinematography, that gives the movie an even more authentic look and feeling to it. It was a great move to hire him for this movie, since his visual style is perfect for this movie. The main audience will know Deakins' work for basically all of the Coen brothers movies, that often have a sort of similar authentic look and feeling to them.

Perhaps you have to be a real lover of cinema or one of the more old school style of film-making to fully enjoy and appreciate this movie but for me it was an absolutely great one to watch!

8/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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