I loved Control and I thought Into The Wild was extraordinary but I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that Jesse James is the film of the year.
Its hard to know which amazing aspect of this film to mention first. Ok, so the cinematography is a dazzling amalgamation of epic beauty and harsh, cold hostility.
The script is literate, visceral and gives the actors enough room to breath without ever straying to far from the core of the story, which itself is skilfully and painstakingly told with delicate charm and wit, intermingled with scenes of violence and debauchery.
The director, Andrew Domink has captured a moment in history that has been mythologized in American popular culture, and redefined it. This film is a place where realism and romanticism can sit side by side without fear of contradiction.
The entire supporting cast performs admirably; but its the two central performances that really capture the eye. Casey Affleck and Brad Pitt are Oscar worthy for this work. Affleck is great as the borderline psychotic, homo-erotic, nave young man who becomes equally obsessed and disillusioned with Brad Pitts charismatic and chilling, Jesse James, who has more than a hint of the supernatural about him.
Its easy to enjoy this film on many levels; technically its wonderful. The story is thoroughly entertaining and there is a visual and literary commentary on mythologized history and the nature of celebrity throughout.
Also the instantly classic soundtrack adds a thick layer of atmosphere to proceedings.
Its hard to find a weak spot, perhaps the film lingers a little too long after the key moment, but probably not. Overall, The Assassination of Jesse James is arguably the best western ever made, for my money it is, but others will disagree. But there is no doubt that this film sits comfortably in the upper echelons of the genre, alongside the likes of Unforgiven, The Wild Bunch and The Searchers.