The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Review
Directed by Sergio Leone
The Good, Blondie - Clint Eastwood
The Bad, Angle Eyes - Lee Van Cleef
The Ugly, Tuco - Eli Wallach
Another classic that I've been meaning to watch for a long time. The third entry to Sergio Leone's spaghetti Western trilogy, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly's reputation precedes it by a long shot. It brought Westerns back into the eye of the American audience. Leone's picture, with the Civil War taking a backseat, propels an outlandish story of a cheater of the system, an unfair outlaw and a Confederate general all ending up out for a hidden $200,000 prize. But more important than the plot is the cinematic elements Leone puts in place.
The first thing you notice about this film is the POV. The camera takes an uncomfortable position about a foot in front of impoverished Mexicans, revealing the grimy, stained face texture that was unlike anything else capture before the end of the twentieth century. The beginning of the film is merely simple exchanges of simple glances. Eastwood had but the absolutely essential dialogue removed, but the changing of shots remained. It's incredible how much of Eastwood you can see in the film's directing, as it was not until the mid to late 90s that non-directors played such an essential part in a film's end product.
Much more than than the landscape and the imagery, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly finally takes the fullest advantage of Ennio Morricone's revolutionary(and decades ahead of its time) score of whammied guitar paired with some of the oddest instruments you can think of. The Western whistle, this is where it originated. The mood changes are swift, and drastic. One scene stands out as memorable; the stubborn Tuco is having the truth beaten and strangled out of him, a group of Civil POWs are being forced to play some ol' time, feel-good country western melodies. The two images are interchanged, but the music remains the same. Just one example of the contrasting themes that Leone combines into a fascinating picture.
Leone keeps the action interesting with highly original styled shots that capture subtle action and get the message across. The camera will sit, unmoving, for more than 30 seconds at a time, as the action moves farther and farther away from the camera. Leone is the only director who seems perfectly content to let the audience strain to follow the shrinking horse galloping across a dry desert.
While Eastwood puts on a powerfully stolid performance, the real star of the show is Eli Wallach's Tuco, The Ugly. He consistently seems incompetent, the classic arrogant villain who gets too wrapped up in his own devices to realize that his hostage is 2 miles up the road with his horse, his water and his pistol. But, while Tuco makes his mistakes, he never quite gets down for the count, quite an acting achievement.
The Civil conflict becomes more and more prevalent, more and more important and prominent in the characters outcomes. Eastwood and Wallach remodel their relationship as the hardship gets harder, and go from fierce rivals to a traveling duo. The two are caught at a Confederate prison camp, behind the battlements of the Yankee army, and ultimately end up blowing up a bridge that was a major conflict point between the North and the South. Their true objective is not quite clear, but the shots are pushed forward by the moving score and powerful acting.
Three very different men, all set out to find a insurmountable sum of cash, all crossed each other's paths because of one shared element of their character; they're all out for their own gain. No matter how they may seem, they're all ruthless and are willing to let the every man who stands in their way perish if necessary. Leone invents the original, ultimate stand-off; the three rebels, in a triple standoff for the identify of the sought for grave. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly is a true landmark of world cinema, one of the most painful, emotional and thrilling motion pictures ever conceived.
Final Score: 98/100