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Sunday, October 30, 2011

This is the eighteenth entry in a series in which I'll countdown my 20 favorite scenes from the last 10 years in movies. To catch up more with the idea of this project, to see the other entries on the countdown, and to find out how you can contribute, click here.

I'm a sucker for really beautiful cinematography. Make a film look really pretty, and it's a solid bet I'll be at least somewhat positive in my opinion of it.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford has a lot more going for it than great cinematography, but it also has the distinction of being one of the prettiest films of the last decade or more. It's photography is sensational—very Malick-inspired, I'd say. And I don't think any other scene illustrates that than this one, the great train robbery.

Click here to view the scene.

It's early on in the film when this scene takes place, but it's the last major crime the James gang will commit. As a result, it's very important in establishing the legend that is Jesse James, and it also represents the peak of Robert Ford's obsession with him. It's all downhill after this until the coward puts a bullet in his back.

The way the light comes around that corner is just breathtaking, as is James' silhouette against the train. I can watch this over and over again and still be astounded by what Roger Deakins is able to capture with his lens. Throw in the terrific score and the suspense surrounding the robbery itself, and it's hard not to label this scene, and the film, as an instant classic.

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