The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid

Director: Philip Kaufman
Screenwriters: Philip Kaufman

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


Our first images of outlaws Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson) and Jesse James (Robert Duvall) in The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid are telling: Younger expansively recounting his miraculous escapes to a rapt audience; James plotting in the confined, dark interior of an outhouse. It is 1876, and as the James Younger gang prepares for one last raid on "the richest bank west of the Mississippi," the West stands poised on the threshold of anew era. Although Kaufman's use of documentary techniques like voice-over narration creates an aura of historical realism, it is studying the impact of this change that interests him. The bear like, sociable Cole is open to this world and its novelties: baseball, steam engines and calliopes (his favorite phrase is "Ain't that a wonderment!"); the fanatical, sociopath Jesse is mired deeply in the past.

Nothing, of course, goes as planned; the bank doesn't even have enough money to rob until the robbers concoct a scheme to salt it. The film 's full of these delicious ironies, and its sudden shifts from comedy to disaster, and heroic to satirical, reveal Kaufman's ability to transform a genre. He may destroy old myths, but he creates new ones in the process.

Tuesday Jan 26 10:30 am
Holiday Village Cinema III


— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]