Tag Archives: sam rockwell

Film Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Jesse James (Brad Pitt) is a notorious criminal with almost legendary status. Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) has looked up him since childhood and attempts to join his gang, but over the years grows to resent his idol.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (herein referred to as The Assassination of Jesse James) is a an appropriately long title for a film clocking in at nearly three hours. However, it’s a film that uses almost every minute of that run time wisely to help construct fascinating characters and an absorbing world in which they exist.

See, The Assassination of Jesse James has an almost fairytale-like quality, with Jesse a Robin Hood type figure widely revered despite his criminal activity. This paints him as a clear anti-hero, clearly the most identifiable character in the film. Showing Jesse also as a family man, caring for his children is a lovely touch, allowing for a much deeper character. Conversely, Casey Affleck’s Robert Ford instantly becomes the most dislikeable character in the film, portrayed as a snivelling two-faced sycophant.

Much of the praise for the characterisation has to go to the actors. Both Pitt and Affleck are excellent; Pitt’s laid-back, almost nonchalant performance superbly contrasts with Affleck’s eagerness, whilst others such as Sam Rockwell and Jeremy Renner also turn in good performances, which again adds to the depth of the film.

It’s got to be said that The Assassination of Jesse James is not a film to sling on if you want some light-hearted, mindless entertainment. It’s long and deliberately slow paced, demanding your attention from the first minute to the last. It does occasionally meander a little too much, losing a little focus, but these moments are few and fleeting. As such, it may even warrant a second viewing to truly appreciate everything it offers.

And one of the things that really does deserve to be appreciated is the film’s stunning cinematography. There’s a brooding, ethereal quality to the film which adds to the fairytale-like atmosphere. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is outstanding, with every shot a work of art that deserves to be appreciated.

What’s interesting about the The Assassination of Jesse James is that you already know how it’s going to end; it says so in the title. But the ‘what’ and the ‘who’ aren’t really what’s important here. What’s important is the ‘why’. The film is a journey, more of Robert Ford’s than Jesse James’s, and it’s interesting to see how all of the minutiae add up to form the climax you know is on its way.

It may be long and it may be demanding, but it’s well worth the effort.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: The Way Way Back

14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) goes on a summer holiday to Cape Cod with his mother (Toni Collette), overbearing step father (Steve Carell) and bitchy step sister. Not fitting in and feeling really rather miserable about everything, Duncan gets a job at a local waterpark where here meets Owen (Sam Rockwell), a senior worker at the park, whom he looks up to. Owen takes Duncan under his wing and helps him have the most important summer of his life.

Last year, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower was somewhat of a surprise hit and made it cool to be unpopular. It was filled with misfit teenagers who, over the course of the film, made some of the important steps from being a kid towards adulthood. The Way Way Back follows a similar ‘coming-of-age’ formula and looks set to repeat the success of Perks, largely thanks to some excellent performances from its (some familiar, some not so familiar) cast.

If you’re a fan of so-called coming-of-age films, then there’s a lot to like in The Way Way Back. All the hallmarks are there, which does give the film an air of predictability about it and it does suffer from slight over-sentimentality at times, although both these can be overlooked without too much effort. It’ll be easy for many to find something to relate to within the film, whether it be Duncan’s difficulty finding his own identity, summer romances, difficult step parents, or just having one of those summers you’ll never forget. This allows the film to be accessible to practically anyone.

However, it’s the performances that really elevate the film. Liam James is perfectly awkward as Duncan, echoing Logan Lerman’s performance in Perks. You can see him grow throughout the film, starting off as a shy, introverted child before slowly growing into a confident young man. Steve Carrell is also excellent as the simply infuriating Trent, Duncan’s step father, who has little to no time for his stepson, whilst Allison Janney is hilarious as their flirty, borderline alcoholic neighbour. It’s Sam Rockwell, though, who really steals the show as the carefree Owen. His dialogue is consistently sharp and quick-witted, with his delivery and timing nothing short of perfect. It’s not overly clear why Owen decides to befriend Duncan in particular, but their relationship works and is the backbone of the film.

The Way Way Back is most definitely a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. On paper it’s pretty formulaic but played out on screen it’s heart warming and genuine. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sneaks onto some ‘best of’ lists come the end of the year.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Quickie: Moon

tumblr_lordged86n1qhzdcmo1_500Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the end of his contract overseeing the mining of gas from the Earth’s moon. It is just he and robot pal GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) until a moon buggy accident sets off a series of peculiar and puzzling events.

Moon is the debut feature of director Duncan Jones (otherwise known as David Bowie’s son) and was clearly made on a somewhat ‘small’ budget (around $5,000,000). However, financial limitations have clearly not impeded Jones in making an intimate and concise film that can easily stand up to, and in some cases head and shoulders above, some of the more heavyweight science fiction films of the past decade or so. The film has a story that would be easy to over-complicate but is kept relatively simple here. It gives you the main twist pretty early on which does lessen its impact a little but does help you to connect the dots as you go along rather than after the film has finished.

The film’s design is also pretty simple, but it works perfectly. Some of the models used will have you thinking all the way back to Star Wars and there are several nods to Kubrick’s 2001 but yet the film never feels dated. The score from Clint Mansell is also superb and adds a huge amount to the film’s overall feel.

Mention should be made of Sam Rockwell who does an excellent job and is proving to be a very underrated actor. Here he is acting largely on his own (kind of), yet manages to carry that burden admirably. Moon isn’t the most groundbreaking film you’ll ever see but it has more than enough to establish itself as one of the most satisfying sci-fi films of recent years.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Quickie: Seven Psychopaths

Seven PsychopathsMarty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter with writer’s block. However, when his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) kidnaps a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu, Marty becomes involved and gets more inspiration than he was hoping for.

2008’s In Bruges was somewhat of a cult hit, so when writer Martin McDonagh returned with Seven Psychopaths, there was a fair bit of anticipation. Whilst it doesn’t quite live up to the aforementioned Belgium-based rib tickler, Seven Psychopaths still has a lot going for it, particularly its witty script and some excellent performances. Rockwell and Christopher Walken especially give top-notch performances and steal pretty much every scene they’re in. Farrell also seems much more at home in this type of thing than straight up action films.

The story is somewhat scatterbrain with characters and plot threads jumping here, there and everywhere (a metaphor for scriptwriting and writer’s block?), but the interesting characters and sometimes hilarious dialogue keep it glued together. It is a brilliant script that has huge amounts to dwell upon once the credits roll and is a film that almost demands a second viewing. It’s also full of self-referential moments that tread the line of clever and covering up for the odd occasion of lazy writing, but it’s nowhere near enough to spoil what is a worthy follow up to McDonagh’s debut, even if it doesn’t quite hit the same high notes.


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