1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2015 - 12:25 PM
4.5

Australian director Andrew Dominik's long anticipated follow-up to his highly acclaimed film Chopper is finally here.

Originally a novel written by Ron Hansen, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford has been adapted for screen by Dominik himself. More a psychological drama than a Western, the film explores the possible relationship between Jesse James and 19-year-old Robert Ford, who became known as “the dirty little coward” who shot Jesse James.

Ford came to idealise James from the many stories and myths that had built up around the outlaw. Ford himself was an idealistic and ambitious young man with a lust for fame.

Jesse James, by 1881, had become physically sick, seething and moody. The film beautifully captures the complexities of Ford's obsession mixed with James' paranoia and regret.

Brad Pitt's Jesse James is intense, complex, charming and unhinged. It is a magnificent performance. He commands the screen like few can. And Cassey Affleck is a revelation as Robert Ford. I think we are seeing the emergence of a great character actor. Together their scenes are mesmerising.

5 times Oscar nominated cinematographer Roger Deakin captured to great effect the loneliness of the rugged landscape.

I particularly loved the way he shot through rippled glass - common of the day - to create an eerily foreboding feeling.

The narration throughout, although somewhat soothing, could have been paired back.

Dominik's visual eye has been accelerated thanks to a bigger budget. The effect of Jesse emerging from a billow of white steam during the night time train robbery scene is breathtaking. Dominik is a brave filmmaker. He has made a long, intense, dark film that in no way caters to Hollywood. I felt as though I were watching a novel - it offered such majesty and poetry.

Yes the film is long, unconventional and it will polarise audiences, but I think it is a beautiful cinematic piece of work - 4.5 stars.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is in cinemas November 1.