Aryan R. Navid essay

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AryanR. Navid



April22 2016

TheAssassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Theidea to base the film TheAssassination of Jesse Jameson a true story gives it the captivating and motivational impact tothe audience. The infamous robbery story involving Jesse James as themain character links to a famous novel by Coward Ford. The mostthrilling scene is the knife scene that reveals the extreme rivalrybetween the two main characters in the movie. The purpose of thispaper is to analyze the film by depictingan accurate description of Jesse James and Robert Ford and discussingthe relevance and roleof the film in the modern day western culture. Adoption of modernityis a necessity despite the disadvantage of losing the ancient cultureof the west.


The2007 American western film entitled, “TheAssassination of Jesse James “doneby the Coward Robert Ford, narrates the story of the last days of aJesse James, a notorious gang leader in contrast to the rise and fallof Robert Ford. Adapted from the 1983 novel by director AndrewDominik, the film expresses the relationship between the twocharacters and focuses on the events that surround the character’slife up to their death. Towards the completion of the movie, in thehouse, Jesse James is seen describing the plan of the robbery theywill heist together with young Robert Ford. In the scene, Jesse Jamesis explaining how he will hold a knife against the cashier as if toillustrate this, he grabs Ford and holds a knife to his throat. Andmurmurs, “I’ll say how come an off-scouring of creation like youis still sucking air when so many of mine are in coffins? ‘How’dyou reach your twentieth birthday without leaking out all over yourclothes?’ And if I don’t like his attitude, I’ll slit that Phidoodle so deep he’ll flop on the floor like a fish (Dominick, DVD).


Researchhas defined the scene to be a majorly significant part in the filmbecause it is shortly after this that Ford gains the courage to shootJesse James. Symbolically the scene expresses the awareness by JesseJames towards the ambitions by Ford to kill him and assumes hisplace. American Scholar McCutcheon defines the scene as the knifescene the scene is covered by a chilled setting with intenseemotions and much symbolism (McCutcheon 31). According to McCutcheon(31), the scene attempts to illuminate the rivalry between the twocharacters with Jesse James illustrated as the powerful yet hauntedby the past. Although most people see him as a hero, he is haunted byhis past all through the end of his life, as selfless as the maincharacter is the director draws the scenes to show the muchdifference between the two. Following this scene, the audience isable to understand the strength and courage of Jesse James as well asthe cowardice character of Robert Ford. Displaying the accuracy ofthe film in depicting the relationship between Jesse James and RobertFord, Ron Hansen and Valmont Thomas (23) recreates the film events intheir text the same way they are in the film. Ron Hansen (12) writes,“Robert Ford, a young gang member is torn between worshiping Jesseand succeeding him, and thus guns him down in cold blood and livesout his days tormented by the killing.”

Scene1: Knife Scene

Thescene plays a major role in defining the relationship between theopposing characters. This scene is significant in explaining thecowardice behavior of Robert forward. By use of guns and knives thedirector goes further to create a setting filled with chaoticviolence, as depicted in the American West culture. The mostintriguing concept of the knife scene is that it is the only momentthat the two characters face each other eye to eye. From the film,the characters are viewed to be killed from the back and usuallyunarmed. Characters including Ed Miller and Robert “Wood” Hiteare seen to be short from the back. Thereby the scenes aspect ofconfrontation tends to bring to the surface the element ofconfrontation and truly exhibits the strength of Jesse James. Onecannot ignore the fact that the scene is placed in contrast withFord’s decision to kill Jesse, it is from that moment that Fordbecomes aware of the strength that Jesse holds and the much agitationto kill what the character holds. The accuracy of the scene isfurther supported in the text by Andrew Dominick. The scene is soaccurate to the book to the extent that almost all the dialogueappears the same way as depicted in the book, except for a fewinstances where the characters are either combined or moved to allowfor a smooth flow of the story.

Scenes2: Assassination of Jesse James

DirectorAndrew Dominik depicts that through self-evaluation is the only waythat an individual will understand oneself and others as a whole. Asif to fully understand this notion the director creates the frameworkof the contrast between the two men, Jesse James, who doesn’t thinkhimself a hero, but rather is tortured by him past, and Robert Ford,who is a self-proclaimed hero who dies a coward. The best thatanalyzes the meaning of the film and offers a glimpse of self-imageevaluation is the last scene by Jesse James where Coward Robert Fordassassinates him. The scene adopts a setting where Jesse James andthe crew are in the house preparing for the robbery. It is duringthis time that Jesse James becomes aware of the death of Dick Liddlithrough the morning newspaper the sad news is followed by JesseJames taking a peep out the window and seems to be in deep thoughts. The character then looks at the wall and notices the painting on thewall he takes off his gun belt and pulls and climbs to clean thepainting. Robert Ford is seen to pull out a gun and shoot Jesse Jamesat the back (Dominic 38).

Ithas been stated that the film describes the difference betweenself-image and the perception that other people may have towards one.The scenes show Jesse James at his last moments the scene portraysthe self-evaluation of Jesse James and his courage towards death.Research argues that Jesse James was ready to die. According toHansen, “By taking the gun belt and turning his back on RobertFord, it was a clear sign of his open arms embrace to death.” Robert Ford’s desire to fame and common thinking drives the younglad to shoot Jesse James from the back normally it is through thisscene that the audience gets to decide on whether to title RobertFord as a coward in the Film. The western Moving picture presents aseries of feelings revolving around Jesse James during his last daysthe perceived hero is haunted by his past and thoughts of suicidekeep clouding his mind. The character is perceived as old andconfused about the much that goes on around him.

TheAssassination of Jesse James is focused on the acceptance of death bythe character. Simply one would argue that Ford does not achieve aplan in killing the character, but rather fulfills the wishes ofJesse James. Writing for theGuardian,Tunzelmann argues that the movie is accurate in almost all scenes.Tunzelmann writes, “Jesse James remains a distant figure and…eventhe potentially fascinating Robert Ford is reined in until the lasthour of the runtime.” The symbol portrayed by the film is equallyimportant in depicting the relevance of the film to the modern day.For example, the painting that Jesse James walks up to wipe, is apainting of a horse, the horse is drawn as wild and very strong. Thismay well represent Jesse James both as a man in the western era, andthe era of the West as a whole.

Thefilm’s purpose can be described as accurate in defining the reignof the Western culture and exploring the aspect of self-image andself-perception. The director of the film adopts a framework of thegenre of the West that seems to focus on the theme of change and thetheme of self-evaluation and self-acceptance. The film adopts acriminal world where the times are changing and becoming more modernwith time research has stated that the movie adapted new methodsfrom the other films of that particular era. This implies theaccuracy of the film to depict and explain the change in the historyof the American culture.

Timeswere changing, and the old was adapting to the modern, Jesse Jamesevaluates himself and is satisfied with his led life but understandsthe situation that the modern era has brought him. Just as thehistory of the western genre, the western has to adapt to newermethods of modern life. In contrast to the old western culture, thesociety must accept change and allow the birth of the modern way ofliving. The theme of change is also exhibited in the Knife scene, andhe is clear to state that ‘when so many of mine are in coffins.`This is set to illustrate the loss that the old western culture hasto bear, and the disintegrating times in regards to the culture ofthe West (Hansten 20). The painting of the Strong Horse on the wallis a symbol of the passing age of the mighty old western culture,after self-evaluation just as Jesse James the changing times areinevitable and the modern way of life must be accepted.


Inconclusion, adopting modernity is extremely important to the westernworld. Although it cost the people their ancient culture and precioustraditions, it was necessary to move on to advancement, improvement,and the benefits of development. The loss of the long preservedculture went with the identity of the older generation and thetreasured practices that linked the current generation to theirancestors. The paper determined that, for instance, the painting ofthe Strong Horse on the wall is a symbol of the passing age of themighty old western culture, after self-evaluation just as Jesse Jamesthe changing times are inevitable and the modern way of life must beaccepted.


Dominic,Andrew. TheAssassination of Jesse James by Robert Ford.New York: The New York Times, 2007. Print.

Dominic,Andrew (Director). TheAssasination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford.IMdB, 2008. DVD, 30 April 2016.

Hansten,Ron. TheAssassination of Jesse James by Robert Ford.New York: McGrawHill International, 2007. Print.

McCutcheon,David. JesseJames Assassinated.New York: McGraw-Hill International , 2008. Print.

Tunzelmann,Alex. TheAssassination of Jesse James: a gloomy Hamlet in the Wild West. TheGuardian,2009. Web. 30 April 2016.