Saturday, 1 December 2007

Does What It Says On The Tin

After the usual lie in, I take Doggo on the park. I extend it, against Doggo’s wishes, by meeting L who has walked Daughter across the park to a friend’s house.

L goes off to the gym and into town while I settle in for the torment that will be Paul Jewell’s first game in charge. I hope he goes for it at Sunderland, as they did let in 7 last week. If we could go there and win, then possibly I could revise my maximum points estimate up to an impressive 31. I sat down with a friend the other week and worked out that with a lot of luck we could get 29 points by the end of the season. Don't knock it; it's almost twice Sunderland's record lowest score. It doesn’t say much for my confidence in the lads that before the season started I worked out how many points we'd get and I came up with 26 but according to my calculation we should have 11 now and we only have 6. So not promising.

The game is, as usual, a disappointment. Performance wise, we are a lot better and we play two up front. We have enough chances to win but realistically a draw is a fair result between two sides who both have ‘Championship’ written all over them, which looks like how it’s going to finish until they sneak the winner in the third minute of injury time.

At the end of the match I walk into town and meet L at Broadway. We have ‘bite’ but are appalled to find that they have upped their prices and not by a small amount either. I hope their new found fame isn’t going to their heads. I sensibly have a mango juice with it as I know we have a near three-hour marathon ahead of us and want to give myself a fair chance of not dozing off in it. Having eaten we still have an hour until the film is on, so be bravely nip out into the Lace Market, where usually get lost and find the Keanes head, where the Mordue Stout 4.7% is wonderful.

Tonight’s film is long in title and long in length ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’. Which actually 'does what is says on the tin' and gives away the plot in its title.

I think part of the idea of the film is to get us better acquainted with Jesse James. The legend suggests he was a Robin Hood type character targeting the rich banks and railroads. The film says otherwise and paints him more as a moody ruffian. The story opens with what proved to be his last train robbery at Blue Cut. After the robbery, he attempts to retire. James is sick of being on the run with his family, even his children don't know his real name, for fear of capture.

Most of James's usual gang are no longer with him, all either jailed or dead, so for this job he has recruited a new one. One of which is Robert Ford. Ford idolises James but is also in fear of him as he quickly learns that the murderous train-robbers are no Robin Hood's. After helping James move his family to their latest new safe location, Ford stays on as a house guest.

Meanwhile the rest of the gang grow restless waiting for word of their next job. James begins to fear them turning him in or killing him in exchange for their own safety and the reward money. So he decides to get rid of those that may be conspiring against him. Unfortunately the film doesn't quite let you a feel for who these characters are before they disappear. After a while he seems to give up and begins to act like a man who knows the end is coming but no longer has the will to try and avoid it.

When the Sheriff enlists Ford to help him get James, Ford assumes that this will lead to him becoming a hero. So Ford cowardly shoots James in the back. When it happens, it's all a bit of a surprise because after waiting so long for it to happen, it is all over so quickly.

Ford though is mistaken about becoming a hero instead he is met with disrespect and called the biggest coward in history whilst James's star just grows brighter. Then another man gets the idea that Robert had; to murder someone famous to be remembered and this second murder ends Robert Ford's life too.

I wasn't sure what to make of the film. The word ‘epic’ springs to mind. There's some unforgettable imagery, stunning shots of floating clouds, desolate landscapes, smoke, snow, rain. It’s more art than movie.

The story itself, is a complex tale of betrayal, paranoia, suspicion, and often-disturbing acts of violence. It works in that respect because you do get a sense of the fear that they all feel, knowing that around any corner they could get shot.

Then there are the intense performances, some superb acting. Brad Pitt is excellent as the brooding, tortured mess that is Jessie James. Casey Affleck too is good as Robert Ford.

Unfortunately everything unfolds at a slow, methodical almost snails' pace in what is a very long film. Although apparently the directors original cut was near on four hours but the studio thankfully made him trim it a bit. It is a western without action. An oldish couple in front of us leave early although his wife clearly nagged him into it.

I am tired before we arrive and I rest my eyes a little during the adverts but yes I do doze off at some of the slower parts of the film.

Afterwards we pop into the Dragon but don’t stay. Instead we have a couple of Leffe’s at Ropewalk before heading home.

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