Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Based on a true story

Alexander Franklin (Frank) James (b. January 1843) and his brother Jesse (b. September 1847) joined the Cole Younger gang and participated in the robbing of their first bank in 1868. A year later the two brothers formed their own gang and added stagecoaches and trains to their list of victims. Train robberies were typically limited to stealing the contents of the express safe while leaving the passengers untouched. The newspaper accounts fostered their Robin Hood image and soon their escapades were published in comic book novels attracting a huge following.

Brad Pitt: Jesse James
Sam Shepard: his older brother Frank
Casey Affleck: nineteen-year-old Robert Ford, a "wannabe" of the James Gang
Sam Rockwell: Robert’s older brother Charley and gang member
Jeremy Renner: Wood Hite, gang member and Jesse’s cousin
Paul Schneider: gang member Dick Liddil
Garret Dillahunt : another gang member Ed Miller
Mary-Louise Parker: Jesse’s wife Zee

I’m not a fan of long movies. But once in a while one comes along that warrants spending a couple of hours watching it: this is one of them. The unhurried pace allows time for character development and moments for the camera to take in some stunning views of the west.

There are two particularily good performances, one by Brad Pitt (his best effort ever?) and the other by Casey Affleck (so much better than his more famous brother).

for some strong violence and brief sexual references.

Try as I might, sometimes nothing pans out. There were four potential nitpicks:
1. Is one person a safe load on blue ice only 3 to 4 inches thick?
2. Was the Penny Farthing bike invented prior to 1881?
3. Was April 3, 1882 a Monday?
4. When was the song “Oh! Susanna” written?

In each instance the producers have done their homework and there were no inaccuracies. Woe is me.

The great cinemaphotography is not all that surprising given the fact that the film’s Director of Photography, Roger Deakins, has been granted membership both in the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and the British version (BSC). That says a lot about his talent.

Torquay, Devon is a town of about 100, 000 on the eastern coast of England yet Roger Deakins, Agatha Christie and 16 other well-known people in the arts were born here: must be something in the water.

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