First thing you need to know going in, this is not some fast paced shoot-em-up. The euphemism “deliberately paced” may be used, as this film is epic while remaining entirely intimate. Eschewing the usual grand scope, this is a character piece through and through, examining in great detail the many facets of the “real” Jesse James and the main inexorably tied to his ultimate fate.

Once again, Roger Deakins is in top form with his gorgeous cinematography. The palate is golden, and the remoteness of the environment is paradoxically both intimate and sweeping. Your eyes follow the etched paths that the horses ride, and while all sense of this century have been removed, there’s a tremendous lived-in filth of the film’s settings, creating a striking feeling of authenticity that further contributes to deconstructing the mythos of this rogue trainrobber and his band of men.

Furthermore, there’s certainly a thick biblical line with a twist running throughout the story – as the death approaches (near Easter), we see that James’ own Judas figure commits the act with at least a tacit acceptance by the one being sacrificed by one well aware of his role in a grander mythology. The denouement makes this stream even clearer, as we see the denigration of this pawn of those in power, exploiting Ford’s own desire for fame only to find him in the end ridiculed as a weak, cowardly traitor.

By toying with Western filmic conventions and drawing these deeper mythological threads, the film is elevated from a simple genre or action picture. With an almost aching restraint in the performances and storytelling, Assassination makes for a quite enjoyable film if you give yourself over to its pacing and style.