Friday, July 31, 2009

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Being a history fan, I enjoyed watching The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I didn't know much about Jesse James at all, and it was interesting to see the portrayal of his life as a gang member and robber.

After watching the film, I was happy to read that the film portrayed the lives of Jesse James, his gang, and the Fords accurately. It has been called accurate and realistic by historians, which isn't always the case when Hollywood takes on a big Blockbuster film like this one. I enjoy that the filmmakers stayed true to what actually occurred instead of trying to fabricate lies in order to sell a movie.

Jesse James was a gang member in the late 1800s who became a celebrity-like figure for robbing banks and becoming rich. He did not give his money to the poor, which is Robin Hood-esque, but instead, he pocketed the money like his gang. He was wanted for a large reward which ended up going to Robert Ford for assassinating him.

The movie made me mad at times since I knew the outcome. The title kind of gives it away, but I'm sure if you know history, you would have already known this to be true. It just kills me that such a coward, wuss of a man could take down such a powerful figure. He shot him in the back, which shows that he couldn't even do it to his face. He gained the trust of James and then did what he had to do in order to get fame and riches. I'm sure others might do that today, but that doesn't mean that they have good character. Imagine being known as being a coward for all of history? It hurts.

Ford's character was very interesting to watch, though. Because he had so many flaws and insecurities, it was interesting to see the motivations behind someone who would do an act of this proportions, befriending and murdering for personal profit. Ford was made fun of and mocked his entire life, especially by James and his family. He wanted to be as notorious as James, but no one would give him the time of day to prove it. This built up frustration for him, as the only way he might ever be remembered would be to take down the biggest criminal of his time, James. It's sad how far some people will go for what they want.

It kills me too that James was killed by the gun that Ford gave to him. Now that's irony, but it makes the whole situation even more terrible for anyone trying to side with Ford. How mad would you be if you were James's wife? She seemed to feel off about him from the start, as everyone else did. I wonder if people really did feel a sense of unease about this guy before the assassination or I wonder if it was more played up in the film to build up Ford's character.

James is probably rolling in his grave for what was done to him. Could you imagine being so powerful and being taken down by someone so weak and fragile? It's horrifying for his reputation, but at least everyone realizes the snake Ford was to do such a thing.

What I also found interesting is how Ford idolized James so much; as a kid, he grew up reading his stories and wishing he was him. He thought he was destined to be great like him--he even made connections about their lives which drew them, somehow, together. Even when he told this to James, he was laughed at. Everyone around Ford could see him for who he was: a coward. A cheat. A liar. A weak spine. A nobody. Ford could not accept this, which eventually drove him to his utter fate.

I find it interesting that the film takes a look at something called Celebrity Worship Syndrome, something I didn't know actually had a formal name. Ford was so obsessed with James as a celebrity, and look at how far he would go to try to be like him and be remembered. It makes me think of other famous celebrities who have assassinated celebrities they love, trying to have some sort of connection with them. An assassination is a connection and gives the fan power, which is truly pretty sick. It makes me think of John Lennon: one of his biggest fans murders him. Now he can be a part of his life forever. It's sick, but that's how it is.

Celebrity Worship Syndrome must occur more often than we think, and we probably don't even see it happening that often since most of us are not celebrities. I bet most of it remains under the radar unless something tragic, like an assassination, occurs. I'm sure there are many other cases of attempted murders or real murders that have taken place where CWS was absolutely the case. This situation depicted in the film is just one early case of this, but I'm sure it happens a lot today and will occur as well in the future.

I also found it sick that Robert Ford tried to use his connection and assassination of Jesse James to his advantage after it happened. He opened a play based on his murder and tried to regain fame to others in bars and in other social situations in order to earn him some sort of respect from society. However, no one did give him respect for this since they saw him for who he truly was. He then was tortured the rest of his life until he was finally taken down in a tavern. It was inevitable, anyway.

The film was really well done, especially for still keeping the historical accuracy of the piece as well. It was quite artistic, and the dialogue was very well scripted. Even though the plot was sometimes not that interesting since there wasn't a steady thread of conflict or plot, my attention was still there. There wasn't some big thing that kept us watching except for the assassination, and for only having that, I thought the movie held the watcher's interest for a while, which is pretty good for the filmmakers.

Acting was also very well done. Brad Pitt obviously did an excellent job of portraying a celebrity gangster in the West who was quite fickle. He was well-liked but also had a mean streak and basically acted for his own interests. He scared people around him since he killed anyone that got in his way. Casey Affleck did an incredible job of playing a weak-spined character. He was believable as an antagonist, and it was impressive since he was able to portray someone so greedy and troubled. He acted really young and immature, which must be pretty hard. Affleck made me hate his character which shows signs of a good actor. Well played.

I'm sure others liked this movie as it is on the best movie lists from 2007. I'm not normally into Western films, but this one still interested me, and I'm glad I was able to watch it. For those who love Westerns, I'm told that this is one of the best Westerns that has been made in a while. I know this movie also hooks history buffs too.

What do you think of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford?


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