Master cinematographer Roger Deakins recalls a four hour version of the movie The Assassination of Jesse James that he believed was “far superior” to the cinematic cut. I say that again for effect:
That’s too freaking long, sorry, Mr. Deakins. I’m disappointed in 160 minutes for a movie. If you can’t tell your story in 90 minutes or less, maybe it’s time to look at the script again. Does every scene advance the story and/or is vitally important? Do you have too many unnecessary characters? Are there overexplained plot points? Learn the function of delete key already.
Professor Strunk: “Omit needless words!”
…about the making of Andrew Dominik’s 2007 revisionist Western drama “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” The original four-hour cut of “Jesse James” got trimmed down to a 160-minute theatrical cut because of studio notes. For Deakins, the 240-minute “Jesse James” was far superior but less commercial for Warner Bros.Roger Deakins: Warner Bros.’ Problem with Four-Hour ‘Jesse James’ Cut | IndieWire
Thank our lucky bladders Warner Bros. had the good sense not to subject us to this on the screen. Again, I’m questioning the need for 160 minutes, but at least that is less than three hours.
Four hours is two, almost three, movies, really. Classic films used to be an hour, so that would be the equivalent of four movies. With creative works, often less is more. If only more of today’s filmmakers understood this concept: respect moviegoers time.
Can there be amazing movies over 90 minutes? Of course. But once the story reaches a certain necessary length just cut the darn thing in parts (hello, Kill Bill). Or if it’s got enough story, make it into a TV series and go hog wild with episodes.
What’s your sweet spot for run time? 90 minutes? Two hours? Less? More? I know it depends on the story, that’s the obvious answer, but my argument is most movies being made are too long these days for the story. Like there is almost a belief that the longer a movie is in run time, the more “epic” it is. Nope.