Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, The

Featured In Issue 130, April 2008

WSR Score3.5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Warner Home Video
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Strong violence and brief sexual reference
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Dual Side/Dual Layer (HD DVD30/DVD9)
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Andrew Dominik
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Dolby Digital+ 5.1
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In the 1880s, everyone knows who and what Jesse James (Pitt) is. Yet nobody knows who Robert Ford (Affleck) is, but that may change if he has it his way The ambitious 19-year-old tries first to gain notoriety by befriending Jesse and riding with his outlaw gang, but if that doesn't work, Robert has other deadlier plans on his mind. Betrayal, some say, while others call it The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford—you be the judge. Based on the novel by Ron Hansen. (Stacey Pendry)

The only special feature is a 32-minute behind-the-story documentary entitled The Assassination Of Jesse James: Death Of An Outlaw.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.36:1 DVD shows very good resolution, with fine details—like the textures of clothes or the crags of skin—rendered well. Black levels are fairly deep and shadow delineation is decent, making for a fairly dimensional image. Contrast is overblown, and, combined with the earthy color scheme of browns, greens, and golds, it has the feel of a typical western. Fleshtones have a yellowish hue, with poor differentiation between the various subject's shades. Compression artifacts aren't overly distracting, but edge enhancement can be noticed, especially with high-contrast transitions. The VC-1-encoded Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD both look the same, with good resolution and deep black levels. Shadow delineation is somewhat lacking, with details in the darkest portions of the image looking flat and crushed. The same color scheme is used, and the high contrast can make the image look overly dimensional with an edginess to higher contrast transitions. Noise can be recognized in many scenes that do not seem consistent with the film grain. (Danny Richelieu)

The Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack is superb, with a very lively mix that really invigorates the listening space. Dynamic range is fantastic, with subtle and loud effects easily discernable in the sound design. Articulation is fantastic, with the natural-sounding dialogue that really breathes life into the recording. Deep bass is tight and controlled with good tonality. The LFE channel is incorporated effectively for effects and music, and the full-range channels are also used well to deliver bass. Phantom imaging is generally nicely crafted, with impressive pans and nicely placed effects. Occasionally a shuffling distortion can be audible, but it isn't overly distracting. The soundtrack is quite enjoyable. The Blu-ray Disc's Dolby Digital encoding sounds very much like the HD DVD's Dolby Digital Plus encoding, with the latter gaining a subtle increase in overall fidelity. Fidelity is good on both releases, but a more advanced codec would have really brought this impressive soundtrack to life. (Danny Richelieu)