The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray Review
PictureThis Warner disc comes to us on region free BluRay using the Warner preferred VC-1 codec at 1080p. The aspect ratio is quoted at 2.40:1, slightly wider than it's theatrical release. As mentioned earlier the colours are desaturated and we're left essentially with sepia like tones which suits the nature of the film. There's also a slight level of grain throughout again suiting the period the film relates to.
Flesh tones come across well, never showing any reddening cheeks apart from the end theatrical productions where extensive makeup is naturally in use. Whites bloom occasionally though with some sky shots sometimes not differentiating the wisp like clouds that are almost there. Darker scenes fare much better though with shadow detail holding up particularly well in say the woods at the start, porch scenes with Pitt and Affleck bantering with each other or the often dimly lit interiors.
With regard to other high definition releases though this lacks a sense of three-dimensionality often coming across as rather flat in comparison to some other premium releases. During close up shots detail is more than apparent with pore and hair structure easily identified, but it's some distant shots which suffer a little reducing the feeling of depth within the whole image. The image shows no signs of any encoding problems; thankfully edge enhancement, blocking or noise are nowhere to be seen here.
SoundUnusually all that is available for English listeners is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track, don't get too despondent about this though as it's certainly no slouch. All channels are used to create a definite feeling of ambience. During the woods scene at the start there are mosquitoes buzzing around and I swear I ducked my head as one flew from my rear right surround, over my head and into the front stage. Like Ford himself I almost slapped my neck thinking I had been bitten!
The crack of gunfire sometimes comes across a little weak or high toned, but in the very next scene this is eclipsed by some thunderous gunshots which echo around the landscape and as such around your system as well. Dialogue is crisp and clear if only a little muffled by some Southern drawl that all of the main characters exhibit, other surrounding voices and discussions can easily be heard from either the wide frontal array or in your surrounds. Rain and wind comes across well again in use with the rears contributing again to the ambience already mentioned.
LFE is fleeting but apparent in the steam trains, horses hooves and it's always tight and well used. Mid range and higher tones are the offer of the day predominantly though. This is a controlled soundtrack which doesn't give any more than is absolutely necessary and you'll be surprised by some of the effects contained within.
ExtrasThere's only the one extra included in this disc a short 30 minute EPK The Assassination of Jesse James: Death of an Outlaw. Jesse's history is discussed by some leading historians, from his humble roots as a preacher's son to enrolment in the Confederate Militia from where he eventfully learned his trade as outlaw. It becomes apparent from this all too short a feature why the South in particular would have found him a hero. Some cast members are interviewed relaying their opinions on Jesse James or Robert Ford and it's a good enough piece but I do wish it was a little longer and a bit more in depth.
One first look I thought I might have been reviewing a Fox release but then I realised that even this EPK was too much for them. There's so much more that could have been done for this disc as a whole, both characters having major history which really deserves further attention. A let down really.
VerdictThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a title which had not to be changed according to Pitt's contract, is a wonderful inspection not only of two complex characters from history but how history itself was shaped and how it evolved in the west from gunfighter to modern day star. Pitt and Affleck produce two stunning performances, but really you have to look at Affleck and commend him for the job he has done here; I didn't really expect too much of Ben's younger brother and I was pleased to be proved very wrong.
The disc suffers by a lack of extras and I feel that there's no real excuse for this unless the production as a whole was on a limited budget. There's a wealth of information on these two that any amount of extra content could have been filmed and added.
What's left though is still worthy of a purchase never mind rental, it's a film I shall certainly revisit every now and again to see Ford's youthful idolisation be stripped away, turned into fear and hatred by a man who himself mistrusts all around him. Highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.31
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