The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting, 1997)
Brad Pitt (Tree of Life, 2011)
Sam Rockwell (Moon, 2009)
Paul Schneider (Lars and the Real Girl, 2007)
This wasn't quite what I expected! First of all, there was no outlaw-ing, except for one train heist at the beginning. This was clearly about the last days of Jesse James's life. Second, it was less about Jesse James than it was about his buddies, especially Robert Ford, obviously (why on earth was I so surprised about all this?) Ford's character was painfully awkward. He started out a total dork who idolized the James gang, and slowly transitioned into a really sucky adult who was still irritatingly self involved and although he still loved James, he hated him for being the larger-than-life character that Ford himself could never be. I guess the main plot of the movie is that degradation of hero-worship. But through it all, Ford still acts like a petulant teenager, angry that the world doesn't stop to present him with his heart's desire. And in the end, when he makes his desperate grab for fame - he's vilified, and you feel a little bad, but mostly deserves it, because he sucks.
Brad Pitt did a good job playing James as he must have been - a dark and moody man toeing the line of craziness. There's one scene where he's holding two snakes up for Ford to look at, and he says "I name them like my enemies" and then he cuts their heads off and keeps holding them, watching them continue to writhe around. There is no glorifying this character. He's a lousy murderer descending into madness. But he also plays with his children, loves his wife, and in the end, willingly steps up to his own death. It reminded me of a passage from Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, which I keep lying around, about the death of Magua, who was the villain;
"As the weapon passed slowly into his heart he even smiled, as if in joy at having found death less dreadful than he had anticipated, and fell heavily on his face, at the feet of the unyielding form of Uncas."
Not that Jesse James was stabbed, but I still thought of it.
Last point: Sam Rockwell was awesome, he always is :)