Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Performances of the Decade (Male)

I feel a sense of excitement when an actor I’ve admired gives a piercingly atypical performance that causes me to reassess their talents. It doesn’t happen too often, and it’s especially difficult to do when you’re successful in a particular niche. Then, there’s always possibility that it won’t be well received. I don’t know if the problem with this entry was its lack of support, but for some reason it’s become forgotten. Pity – it’s a treasure.
#6 Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Not to be broken record, but I really hate the way that Brad Pitt’s acting talent continue to be ignored. I remember in 2007 when he won at the Venice Film Festival (even though I hadn’t seen the film yet) I was praying that he’d finally get the recognition he deserved, but alas that didn’t turn out as it was supposed to.The Assassination of Jesse James did go on to moderate success with the award ceremonies, but like with so many other films critics and awards seemed only to have seen one performance of the film: Casey Affleck and failed to notice Brad's performance. Casey Affleck was excellent as Robert Ford, and I won't get into the alleged category fraud. However, it's Brad who impresses me most in it. It's a performance that towers above Pitt's others, even though he has done good work before and after. Time after time, whenever I watch this film it's a performance I cannot forget.
The Assassination of Jesse James is a film that finds its glory in the smallest of things. It's not being gratuitous, but it simply thrives in the details. As the film opens with the the narration and the montage of James and we watch a strangely sombre Brad walk through the fields we already notice the difference, the sort of genteelness but the hint of something more sinister below. In retrospect, I suppose James is not as flashy a character as critics would like, but in a way Brad here reminds me of Warren Beatty in Bugsy. We know that Bugsy is a gangster, but there's that shocking moment where we see him take part in violence after we've already been charmed by him. It's the same with Brad - not only the altercation on the train but later in the film when he turns on the young boy at the barn. It catches the audience off guard and the quickness with which he switches from "gregarious" to deadly is chilling. Pitt doesn't play Jesse quite as ostentatiously reckless as legend would have it, but there's a look in his eyes as we moves through his scenes...there's more than just emptiness beneath them
The latter half of The Assassination of Jesse James is not unlike the story of a man spiralling out of control. The scene where he "jokingly" attempts to slit Bob's throat is excellently played by Pitt. And as he prepares for his assassination there is that look on Brad's face that suggests so much more. As he listens to his daughter recite the poem and he takes off his guns something seems to change in him, as if he's preparing himself for what he knows to come. True, he leaves the film with twenty five minutes to spare - but I believe Pitt's performance to be an indelible part of The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.
What were your thoughts on Pitt's Jesse James?Worthy of recognition? Does it rank among the best work he's done?


Burning Reels said...

Nice choice Andrew...I do think it was excellent casting by Dominick - you needed an actor with that mix of fame, looks, talent, edge and soul, and Pitt fits that bill perfectly.

Peter Chan said...

LOVED this mention. Hopefully Affleck is somewhere on here too. The two played so well with each other.

Alex in Movieland said...

fabulous performance

Castor said...

Great review of Pitt's brilliant performance, Andrew. Definitely a heck of an underrated movie.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

burning reels he does fit the bill well

peter casey isn't in the top 15 but he'd probably crack the top 25.

alex glad you're a fan

castor it's such an underrated film, which is unfortunate.