Is it me or did Brad Pitt go through a lengthy phase where he was making really bad choices? I mean Mr & Mrs Smith may have been good for his personal life (not quite so good for Jenifer Aniston's perhaps) but professionally he seemed to be in freefall. And "Troy"? Please! He kind of went below my radar for a while but for me this movie brought him back to my attention.
He's looking older, a little worn around the edges now, but in this role (the assassinated of the title) he brings just the right amount of menace to the role, whilst also conveying an oddly affecting care for his family which brought depth to the character.
The coward of the title is played by Casey Affleck, and what a performance that is. He combines a youthful naivety with an oh so wounded pride and probably more menace than Pitt commands. It's a remarkable performance that puts his brother Ben in the shade, though some would say that's not too difficult of course. According to Esquire magazine Casey is as difficult as the parts he plays, which is all to the good for us as an audience (not so good if you interview slebs for Esquire though).
Of course, once you've heard the movie's title you already know how it's going to end, but this in no way reduces the dramatic tension, even though the movie feels like a slow and stately procession towards that inevitable conclusion. Some will say this slowness makes the movie boring, but that wasn't the case for me. One knows the deed is coming, but not when, so you have to be on your guard, six shooter at the ready, throughout the duration. When the gunshot finally comes (no spoiler tag required here), it's no less shocking. But that's not the end of the movie, as it's topped and tailed by the aftermath of the event. We think of a celebrity obsessed culture as being a modern invention, but this film reminds us that we have always been obsessed by heroes (and anti-heroes), dragons and dragon slayers, and it has much to say about how stories are embellished in their re-telling and become accepted truths.
Visually stunning and beautifully acted throughout (Sams Rockwell and James are also noteworthy here), this is a genre busting movie. I'm not a fan of the western and freely admit I was drawn to it by the big ticket names, but did not come away disappointed.