Regarded as a paraphrase rather than a real docudrama, this film does reveal some truths amid the fiction. Whatever one may think about the exploits of the James brothers and their various gangs, one cannot but have grave misgivings about the proto-fascist activities of Alan Pinkerton as the paid lackey of the railroad and banking interests in the post Civil War era. This "great detective" hired by the U.S. government to organise espionage against the Confederacy has been reliably reported as "manufacturing" most of the information submitted to President Lincoln.
The characters ascribed to the James brothers here is likely close to the truth, but why the contradictions of known facts. Their step-father Samuels was hanged by Pinkerton agents, not shot. Bob Ford, not Charlie, is the known assassin of Jesse James. This could have been a fine historical film, but some truth does emerge as initially said. The railroads and banks of the post Civil War era were proto-fascism at work in a very vicious form, and Alan Pinkerton was their "Himmler".
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