I think I liked this one a little bit more than The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Not just because it was shorter but it was a little bit less ..bearing on you. Where The Assassination wants you to be clear that there is no such thing as heroes, wrong or right, stalking is never good and so on – it pushes more to form an opinion. True Grit is a lot more … ‘simply there’.
That’s not because there happens less. Here are also shoot outs, needless deaths and gorgeous surroundings. And main character Mattie Ross (a thirteen year old girl whom decides to hunt down her father’s killer) is much stronger and level-headed than Robert Ford. Mattie knows her business, is smart and unimpressed by adults (fooling around). There are only very few shots in which she’s denigrated to plot device, a sudden question asked in a too childish voice to help the clueless viewers along. Which really isn’t necessary in my opinion, especially because with Jeff Bridges’ accent (the Marshall that helps her) you wouldn’t understand the answer anyway. His Marshall really needs subtitles from time to time.
True Grit is a little bit lighter, mostly due to its characters (as its surroundings are covered in the bleakness that seems to come with westerns). The Marshall is the gruff with the golden heart, LaBoeuf is flamboyant but honest, the bad guys are stinky rats and Mattie could be a role model for a lot of children, boys and girls alike. The good thing about Hailee Steinfeld’s acting is that you never get the ‘Ugh, child-actor’ feeling. Mattie’s snappy remarks fit her, as do her sudden tears.
Western isn’t a genre I’m well-versed in (before these two films only having watched The Quick and The Dead) and I don’t know if it completely fits me. I do know that I want to see more of Mattie’s story. Luckily there’s a comic for that.
I usually don’t watch films that share the plot in their title. It feels a bit like -as a viewer- you don’t have to go through any trouble anymore. Like you don’t need to invest your full attention to get to the climax because hey, you already know how it’s going to end. But in the name of my mini-mini western marathon (True Grit will follow), and simply because I was curious, I watched The Assassination. It showed me that knowing how the story ends doesn’t necessary has to be the most important part of a movie.
Jesse James is a criminal. He robs banks and trains and moves through the country to prevent arrest. Jesse James is also a mysterious, charming man and Robert Ford is absolutely obsessed by everything he does. Yes, put this last sentence in a different context and you have a stalker story, one everyone knows how it will end. As the youngest brother, as the kid with nerves and little knowledge – Robert always gets the short end of the stick. No-one listens to him, no-one really sees him. And he so desperately wants to be seen. Jesse James probably knows this, picks up on the kicked puppy that is building a world around his personal life. But he doesn’t do anything about it.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford looks incredibly gorgeous. Especially the nature shots are worthy of a place on your wall, and the whole colour scheme and music make sure that you are pulled into this world. Watching it on a computer screen almost felt too modern. Casey Affleck (Robert Ford) shows how a 19-year-old’s imagination slowly starts running out of control while it’s a 100 percent understandable why people would follow the charm of Jesse James in the shape of Brad Pitt. James isn’t a hero, but he’s the meter other people are measured with.
This isn’t a shoot ’em up western, the guns here are subordinate to words and glances. And (long) pauses, because this genre isn’t familiar for it’s speedy delivery. That’s something you have to think of before starting, else you might get fed up with The Assassination around three quarters. And that would be -for the gorgeousness alone- a shame.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Warner Bros 2007