Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford HDDVD Cover Art
Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford BRAY Cover Art
SRP $27.98 2.35:1(16:9) DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 WARNER BROS

As with "THE INVASION" from WARNER BROS, "THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD" was long delayed before its brief theatrical release.  Apparently, Pitt had a hand in testing a version with more action with audiences that didn't do well, thereby allowing the writer/director to finally release his version, albeit still shorter than what he originally intended. The fact that this film could be longer will irk many, as it could use tightening and it would be easy to chop off 25 minutes without the film missing a beat. It's easy to understand why many critics hail this film as a masterpiece. While this reviewer can't go that far, there is something about it that is engrossing.  While it is a revision of the "western" film, it's far more poetic than "MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER," and less violent.  There are plenty of beautiful, haunting images that will stay with the viewer long after the film has ended. The final railroad robbery by James near the beginning of the film, foretells the kind of brilliant synergy between music and imagery to come throughout the film.  The narration, is also engaging, helping in some way, to transcend the genre in a manner that Terrence Malick always sought, but never actually succeeded in.  Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck do a great job here, in every scene, but then, the whole cast is great. Well, actually the appearance of James Carville actually stops the film dead in its track for a moment, almost slipping from the masterful style of scenes preceding and following it.

Those expecting a violent, action-type film will be sorely disappointed. But, those willing to sit back and just give in to the character study unfolding, will be extremely pleased.

WARNER BROS. has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this release.  Colors are solid throughout. The production design is often elaborate, and even with soft focus lens moments, the image is still stunning. Colors are perfectly rendered, varying with the director's intent, from rich to restrained. The level of detail for a dvd, is amazing. This is a great looking transfer, making one even more excited to see what has been improved upon in the high-def versions to be released! The highly stylized image actually may annoy viewers more on the blu-ray, as its intentional distortions and soft-lens shots are more distinct on this format. While the majority of images in this 2 1/2 plus hours film look nearly flawless in richness and depth on blu-ray, those softer looking moments are more highly contrasted. Still, on the blu-ray, even when colors are intentionally subdued for a period(Altman"esque")look, the depth is still great! While the hd-dvd is supposed to have come from the same AVC 1 source, blacks were less defined here, lending slightly better contrast on the blu-ray.  Other than in darker scenes, the two high-def formats appear equal.

WARNER BROS. has provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.  The mix, while not aggressive, is excellent. There is an adequate amount of surround/discrete involvement during key moments and the blending of music, narration and dialogue is perfectly balanced. It's a GREAT mix! For some reason, WARNER BROS. has chosen not to provide a Dolby TrueHD or even PCM mix for this blu-ray release, opting for just a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix instead. The hd-dvd, at least offers a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix.  The music is presented with even greater dynamic range on the blu-ray format and hd-dvd format, over the standard 5.1 mix of the standard dvd.  While overall surround involvement may seem to pale in comparison to "bigger" (300-like)films, this is still a terrific, if subdued mix. We couldn't tell any difference whatsoever between the blu-ray and hd-dvd, and both offer better dynamic range than the dvd.

Surprisingly, no extras are offered on dvd, while the high-def formats offer a short documentary on the infamous outlaw.