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Once Upon a Time in the West Reviews

Page 1 of 228
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

October 29, 2012
The go to film for every Western that has been made ever since, whether it's been serious or a parody. Once Upon a Time in the West is probably the greatest western ever made, I have a soft spot for The Good, The Bad and the Ugly but this one edges it somewhat. The first 20 minutes is better than most films are in their entirety. Rightfully regarded as the classic it is.
skactopus
skactopus

Super Reviewer

September 3, 2012
Sergio Leone goes a long way with Once Upon a Time in the West. Perhaps too long.Once Upon a Time in the West isn't exactly a race down the track and running 2 hours and 45 minutes doesn't help its cause. There are a lot of scenes that are drawn out, especially in the beginning, that do not need to be. Granted, the cinematography is solid, but story-wise it hurts. The film is nearly an hour in before it even feels like it starts to go somewhere.The action is far and few in between. Sure, a Western, or any film for that matter, can live without bullets flying, but this picture needs it. The buildup is there; however, when the guns start shooting it is over as quickly as a bullet reaches its target.The mystery and confidence behind Charles Bronson is fascinating, which leads to a fantastic character. Henry Fonda and Jason Robards do a good job of rounding out the trio of expert gunmen. Claudia Cardinale is a stunning presence that just grabs the eyes every minute she is on screen.Once Upon a Time in the West has its moments and influences, but it also has its flaws. Watchable, if only once.
familiar s

Super Reviewer

April 15, 2012
I'd maintain that westerns are not specifically my cup of tea, and I'd also maintain that, occasionally, I do enjoy them. Its music is remarkable, but the same can't be said for all the performances. If you too are running out of options, stop running.
Graham J

Super Reviewer

March 4, 2012
The first scene of this film is maybe the greatest opening of all time, Morricone's music and Leone's camera combine for a truly operatic movie experience. In some ways this film is better executed than The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. It's great to see Henry Fonda introduced into the Leone world as well as Jason Robards.
TheDudeLebowski65
TheDudeLebowski65

Super Reviewer

June 8, 2010
Sergio Leone has long mastered the art of the Western, but with Once Upon A Time In The West, his talents have culminated and he created the greatest western ever put on film. Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale give amazing performances. However the greatest performance of all is Henry Fonda as the psychopathic killer Frank. His performance leaves you astounded and makes your blood run cold at his ruthlessness. Fonda delivers one of cinema's most ruthless performances here, and watching him in his performance makes the film very enjoyable.
A superb film, Once Upon A Time In The West is a tale of revenge and retribution, and in the hands of master director Sergio Leone, this film is one of the greatest films ever made. The film is filmed in the typical Leone style of letting the images on screen tell the story. This adds to the epic scope of the picture. When I first seen this film, I was totally blown away. I was in awe and what I was seeing on screen. The film is slow of course, but when it's over you are just in awe at how epic this film really is. Sergio Leone delivered something phenomenal and this is by far one of his greatest films. Everything about this film is grand. The acting, the score, the locations. Everything. This is a Western not for everyone as this is a pure work of art. Sergio Leone was a masterful filmmaker and he pulls out every trick to deliver this work of art. Once Upon A Time In The West is a film that is for the true cinema buffs because the common filmgoer will find this film boring, and will definitely not recognize the merit of this epic film. Viewing this film and appreciating it makes you realize how big Sergio Leone vision was. Leone was a man of big ideas, and this film shows that. Right from the memorable opening scene to the awesome climax, Leone manages to hold you in awe right up to the end. Roger Ebert gave this film a terrible review and he should be ashamed because Once Upon A Time In The West is a Western film that has yet to be matched. In Fact it's a film that stands alone as the greatest Western film ever filmed. This film will never be matched.
A tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat till the epic climax, OUATITW will definitely appeal to any fans of the Western genre.
hunterjt13
hunterjt13

Super Reviewer

November 27, 2011
A man kills a family, another man who plays a harmonica joins forces with another man falsely accused of killing the family, and there's something else about buying land in the way of a train track.
Almost every critic and Super Reviewer mentions the nearly silent first fifteen minutes of Sergio Leone's film, and just so I don't feel left out, let me mention it too: the first fifteen minutes sucked. I have no problem with dialogue-absent beginnings; There Will Be Blood uses such a start to perfection. But in There Will Be Blood the character that is built on such silence and the event that occurs affects the rest of the film. The characters introduced during the first fifteen minutes of Once upon a Time in the West die unceremoniously.
At three hours, the film often becomes a chore. Leone meditates on the banal, and the exposition lasts about forty-five minutes, about nine times what it should be.
Once Leone got around to showing us what the story was going to be about, I thought it eventually picked up steam, and the performances by the leads were decent. I especially liked Henry Fonda's turn as a black hatted man (in typical Westerns - and this is a typical western - the bad guys always wear black hats - this is a little nugget you can learn if you move to Oklahoma [don't - it's not worth it]).
Overall, Once upon a Time in the West may be the slowest film I've seen this year, and though the performances are good here and there, in the end, it's not worth the wait.
Joel K.
Joel K.

Super Reviewer

October 27, 2011
This three hour epic completely beat everything Leone had done in the past. In fact it completely beat all other westerns made in the past. Yes, boys, it's true. It's better than High Noon (a film it pays tribute to in its opening sequence), better than The Searchers, better than Rio Bravo, and even better than (Dare I say it!) The Magnificent Seven.
A nameless man with a harmonica, a widowed prostitute named Jill, and an outlaw named Cheyenne (Charles Bronsan, Claudia Cardinale, and Jason Robards) all have a grudge against a merciless killer named Frank (Henry Fonda). The film is low on dialogue, and choses to build characters through good acting. Each of the four main cast members have brilliant turns as their respective characters, especially Henry Fonda (playing out of type in this one). The soundtrack is possibly one of the greatest ever made, it's grand, bold and operatic. On its own the soundtrack is a brilliantly work of art. The film simply wouldn't work without it (composed by Ennio Morricone). But at the end of the day this film's success comes down to Leone's use of brilliantly built Dramatic tension, and his unique, but familiar vision of the old west. Marvellous!
Dan S

Super Reviewer

October 12, 2007
An absolute classic that ranks amongst the absolute best of its genre, nobody has ever captured the old-school Western world quite like Sergio Leone, and this is his finest feature. Soaked in atmosphere, with layers upon layers of subtlety, this is a far-reaching epic which succeeds in every turn. From its well detailed performances while keeping his characters mysterious and intriguing, all the way down to masterful camera direction in which each stare is burned into the viewer's brain, this is unmistakably the best Western film I have seen (with "Unforgiven" coming in at a close second). Leone's choice of casting Henry Fonda as a villain is a sublime stroke, and one that works wonders in the end. But it's Charles Bronson's icy stare that steals the show. All in all, a masterstroke, and one that should be seen by any fan of the genre.
blkbomb
blkbomb

Super Reviewer

June 8, 2011
"Do you know anything about a guy going around playing the harmonica? He's someone you'd remember. Instead of talking, he plays. And when he better play, he talks. " For me there is no doubt that Once Upon a Time in the West is Sergio Leones best film and also the best western ever made. It's slow moving, but so beautifully shot that you're never bored even when there hasn't been any action or dialogue for 10 minutes. The score for this movie is also fantastic and makes it all the more epic, and the movie is epic. The story is pretty cool. Morton hires a gang of killers to kill property owner McBain who owns land where the railroad is going to go through. But his unknown wife(Claudia Cardinale) shows up and inherits the land. Now it's a fight between Frank(Henry Fonda) and two others, Harmonica(Charles Bronson) and Cheyenne(Jason Robards), who are looking after Jill and seeking some revenge. The movie isn't for everyone. If you are bored after the first hour, stop watching because it doesn't speed up very much. There are scenes that are draw dropping in how beautifully shot they are. There is something to be said for a film that can show such brutal and heartless violence in the beauty that Leone made Once Upon a Time in the West. The best western, and ultimately one of the best movies ever made; it is a masterpiece.
Kristijonas F

Super Reviewer

April 1, 2011
The magnum opus of a spaghetti western, Once Upon a Time in The West is a momentous achievement by the great Sergio Leone and a landmark film that, in conjunction with his other works, helped inspire generations of film-makers. I could point out numerous specifics that make this film such a legend, but that would be pointless. Just know, this is a movie you won't soon forget.
deano
deano

Super Reviewer

February 26, 2007
This is superb spaghetti Western film, but The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a Seige Leone classic.
Henry Fonda's character has a menacing and jarring score which chills and thrills me every time I see it as he's the coldest villain in the screen history. All of the gunslingers are badasses or dead, and even some of the very baddest still end up dead, on the wrong end of a bullet. The one who rises above all the rest, only identified as Harmonica, is played brilliantly by Charles Bronson. The character Harmonica's conspicuous similarities with Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name". The opening scene sets the stage for the baddest of the bad who tells the 3 hired guns that they brought 2 horses too many. MEMORABLE!
The final showdown between Frank and Harmonica is one of the most dramatic scenes ever filmed in a Western.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

September 29, 2006
Once Upon a Time in the West is a Sergio Leone exercise in brilliance. An epic western with fantastic characters (not a bad performance to be found), appropriately superb dialogue and truly amazing direction. Every shot is a beautifully composed masterpiece. Leone develops his characters with closeups every bit as much as the actors who portray them. The slow and deliberate pacing of the story in tandem with Ennio Morricone's score offer up something truly special and the closest you're going to get to the perfect western.
TomBowler
TomBowler

Super Reviewer

June 28, 2010
Amazing. Full review later.
Cassandra M

Super Reviewer

May 18, 2010
Sergio goes Hollywood for this big-name, big-budget Spaghetti Western. Fonda, Bronson, Robards and Cardinale queue up and take Leone's choreographic direction in an epic tale of blood and revenge.

Frank is a bad guy who has killed a lot of people. He now works for a railroad entrepreneur whose ruthless sterile tracks are spreading ever westward. The time has come for the real Americans to confront both the railroad and Frank.

Leone sat down with film intellectuals Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento and watched dozens of Hollywood westerns. From this saturation-viewing emerged a 300-page treatment which was eventually distilled into the script, penned by Leone and Sergio Donati. There are conscious echoes of "Shane" and "High Noon" in the meticulously-plotted screenplay. Ennio Morricone apparently sat in on the planning stage and had composed the score in toto before shooting began, the reverese of the usual process of fitting music to existing footage. The result is a tight matching of soundtrack and visuals. Robards, Bronson and Cardinale each have musical 'signatures' which play whenever their characters are onscreen. Bronson's is an eerily-wailing harmonica, Robards has the plonking banjo and Cardinale the lush strings. So intricately was everything structured that the themes were available to be played on set, so that the actors could co-ordinate every nuance of gesture to fit with the score.

The film is a grandiose lament to the death of the Wild West. Decay is everywhere to be seen. Streets, bars, buildings and people all have a beat-up, grungy look. When Cheyenne (Robards) pauses beside a rough-hewn wooden post, there is little difference in texture between his face and the post. Morton the cripple is killing the romantic West of open spaces with his "snail trail" of railroad tracks, leaving the fine adventurous men (Cheyenne and Harmonica) nowhere to go.

There can be few opening scenes with the visual and aural brilliance of this one. Three bad guys stake out Flagstone's railroad depot in a High Noon pastiche. Jack Elam (who was actually in "High Noon") leads the villains. The only spoken words throughout this long (but totally gripping) scene are uttered by the old station clerk. Haunting rhythms raise the tension to an unbearable pitch ... the squeaking windmill, the chattering tickertape, the creaking bench. This wonderful crescendo climaxes with the appearance of Bronson, a sequence as stylised and choreographed as a Shinto ceremony, all the more effective for the absence of spontaneity.

Equal to and counterbalancing this scene is the very next one, the introduction of Frank. This time it is "Shane" that gets the treatment as the McBain boy spots five men in yellow duster topcoats. A growing sense of unease on the McBain homestead is beautifully conveyed (was the stopping of a cicada chirp ever so effective?) A cinematic multiple orgasm ensues, with the musical theme crashing in as the boy sees the devastation, and the camera swoops round to reveal the baddie to be none other than Henry Fonda as Morricone's trademark solitary tubular bell peals out.

Cheyenne's entrance is also a piece of impressive cinema. Inside Lionel Stander's strange labyrinthine tavern, quite unlike any saloon ever filmed before, the violence which hovers around Cheyenne like a dustcloud is heard but not seen, preparing us for his appearance in person. The sliding of the lamp towards Bronson works brilliantly, the film's two good men sharing the light of humour, the symbolic forging of a meaningful friendship.

By a slow accretion, the plot reveals itself. The leviathan of the railroad must be stopped, and there must be a reckoning with Frank. Gradually the fates of the main characters converge, and swim into sharp focus for the shoot-out.

It is not the story, excellent though that is, which lingers in the memory, but rather a hundred individual flashes of brilliance: Claudia Cardinale (are those eyes for real?) filmed on the bed, viewed vertically downward, through a lace canopy: Cheyenne's surprise method of concealing himself on the train: Morton ("when you're not on that train, you're like a turtle out of its shell") imprisoned by the armature that helps him walk: the 'heartbeat' of the train's engine during the cardgame: the tension of the ambush preparations against Frank: the eruption of guitar music as Bronson enters the frame: Bronson's stillness and self-possession, the emblem of his righteousness: Fonda's eyes flickering rapidly in his motionless head, denoting the waning of his self-confidence: the amazing super-close-ups of Bronson: and the weird brick arch, the only man-made intrusion into the entire terrain, and the focus of human depravity.
Stefanie C

Super Reviewer

May 5, 2010
I like my westerns with spaghetti, spiced with Morricone! A well-orchestrated film classic, this script was penned by an unlikely trio of second generation Italian auteurs (Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone). I wish that I viewed this film upon initial release, so I could be amazed instead of slightly jaded. I had a vague, but overwhelming, sense that I had seen elements of this film incorporated in later, disparate works. Looking back from the 21st century, I can only assume the mimicry stands as a testament to the overall creativity and cinematic genius of this epic, gunslinger flick.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

January 21, 2010
It's perhaps the biggest salute to the Western genre. It takes everything great about earlier films and spins it on it's heel. Henry Fonda's incredibly evil Frank is in my opinion the greatest villain in the genre, he completely steals the movie. In so many ways Frank resembles the end of the gunslinger, when faced with the idea of being outdated and nearing extinction. Jason Robards and Charles Bronson also make for a great supporting cast. It has an amazing revenge story that only adds to the existing plot. Sergio Leone really did a great job, especially since he never wanted to direct the movie in the first place.
cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

June 9, 2006
VERY slow paced and long and drawn out, but if one can make it it through the (many) long scenes at the beginning where not much happens, they will be rewarded with a brilliant film which combines a revenge story with a historically relevant tale of progress and western expansion. Fonda is great in a surprising turn as a villain, Bronson is a creepy anti-hero, Robards is a credible tough guy, and Cardinale is both attractive and good in her role which links her to the three aforementioned men. Like the rest of Leone's films, the best parts are the cinematography, music, and atmosphere. This is a hard one to sit through, but well worth it.
Carlos M

Super Reviewer

October 22, 2009
Leone's ultimate western epic is a landmark operistic elegy for the dying genre, with incredibly fantastic dialogues, lots of evocative silence, outstanding performances and a classic Morricone score.
LorenzoVonMatterhorn
LorenzoVonMatterhorn

Super Reviewer

December 17, 2008
"There were three men in her life. One to take her... one to love her... and one to kill her."

Epic story of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica who joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.

REVIEW
Sergio Leone's Western masterpiece finds Charles Bronson stepping into the No Name role as the vengeance-seeking Harmonica and Henry Fonda trashing his Wyatt Earp image as the dead-faced, blue-eyed killer, Frank. The opening - Woody Strode, Al Mulock, and Jack Elam waiting for a train and bothered by a fly and dripping water - is masterful bravura, homing in on tiny details for a fascinating but eventless length of time before Bronson arrives for the shoot-out that gets the film going.

Once Upon A Time In The West is the first Leone film to place violence in a truly political context, accusing the corrupt (and crippled) railroad tycoon who "leaves two shiny, slimy tracks like a snail" as he bulldozes across the landscape, employing outlaw flunkeys to dispose of inconvenient settlers who won't unsettle easily. Rapacious civilization taints the wide open spaces as Harmonica quests to track down the sadist who hanged his brother, widow-whore-earth mother Claudia Cardinale tries to fulfill her murdered husband's dream of a real community out West, and bandido Jason Robards just wants to be left in a natural state of childish abandon. With striking widescreen compositions and epic running time, this is truly a Western that wins points for both length and width.
Coxxie M

Super Reviewer

March 21, 2009
blissfully american.
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