The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid
The oft-told story of the rise and fall of the James Younger gang is given the Dragnet treatment in The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid. With meticulous attention to detail, the film recreates the outlaw gang's most infamous escapade: the September 7, 1876, robbery of "the biggest bank west of the Mississippi" in Northfield, MN. Cliff Robertson plays Cole Younger, and Robert Duvall appears as Jesse James, herein depicted as a pair of vengeance-driven sociopaths, but no worse than the greedy railroad magnates who've driven them into a life of crime. Younger is also quite the manipulator, convincing the immigrant farmers of Northfield that the bank is completely impervious to robbery, thereby increasing the deposits that he intends to steal. Duvall's Jesse James is a cold-blooded murderer, but, like Younger, not without his own personal charm. The climactic raid is filmed cinéma vérité style, looking more like a haphazard CNN news event than a well-oiled machine (this film is not, thankfully, the standard "slick" Hollywood product). Though it drags in spots, The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid is a superb, iconoclastic reproduction of an era long past.