Once Upon a Time in the West Reviews
Fortunately, there are plenty of films to love after seeing this high water mark, from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to Django (NOT Unchained), but this not only tops the genre, but has earned its place as one of the all-time best films of ANY genre.
Leone's direction is simply perfect: here you can actually see how skilled he was. In my opinion, Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the best movies ever.
C'era Una Volta Il West
Even though these features are overlong and walks on familiar and usual tracks and characters, what works in it, is the gripping and finely detailed screenplay and amazing cinematography that brings out its own stunning methodology. Sergio Leone whose features are similarly looking for revenge, never misses on executing its script to perfection and delivers everything that is expected. Charles Bronson; the protagonist, holds on to its part and is well supported by Claudia Cardinale and Henry Fonda (the best thing that can happen to this installment). C'era Una Volta Il West is a character driven plot that has a wafer thin plot, but its sometimes beautiful and also horrific screenplay is what helps him sail off this boat for around 164 minutes.
I'll start with Henry Fonda, who is a mixed bag for me. I liked the contrast of his blue eyes with his dark character, and he certainly does things which emphasize his cruelty - killing a child in cold blood, knocking down his crippled boss, and committing rape. It's a decent performance, but to me Fonda didn't quite fit in the part. Not enough grit to be believable, and at 63, too old.
Charles Bronson is similarly 'just ok', and he's certainly no Clint Eastwood. It may be unfair to compare Leone to his other work, but I liked 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly' much more, because of Eastwood, a more compelling plot, and that extraordinary musical refrain. The harmonica we get here kind of pales in comparison.
While it's fantastic to see the beautiful Cardinale in the film, the rape scene made me cringe, and not because of the act itself, but because how Leone captures it. Cardinale is supposed to be pretending to go along with Fonda to survive, so some of what we see is to be expected, but to see no fear or disgust, and just waves of rapture instead, is sickening. Earlier Cardinale says that Cheyenne (Jason Robards) could bend her over the table and have his men have their way with her, and all she'd have to do is wash off with hot water afterwards. It could be the voice of the hardened prostitute talking, but the overall impression of rape this scene and the other give is that it's just a sex act, one a woman may actually enjoy, instead of an act of great violence with devastating consequences. So we have a male fantasy of rape to go alone with that of the fantasy of the fearless, cool gunslinger, the latter of which has plenty of Americans wanting to walk around carrying a gun, thinking they fit this image.
My apologies if this is coming across unbalanced in the other direction, and too negative. There are plenty of great moments and great shots, both of the scenery and in close-ups. The relationship between Fonda and Bronson is effective, and as in Leone's other works, they share the mindset of the hardened killer, understanding one another as they circle each other's path throughout the movie. While we certainly have an idea of the backstory behind Bronson's character, the reveal towards the end is a powerful moment. If you like westerns, this is must-see. If you don't, I don't think I'd pick this one to try to convert you.
Unquestionably epic, layered, and talented in every sense.
A pesar de la mágica música de Morricone, Once Upon a Time in the West no puede compensar su lento ritmo narrativo.
The film has the same Italian crew as the Dollars trilogy it appears but has a lot more money on the screen.
The set designs, cinematography and locations including Death Valley in Utah, U.S. are used to full effect.
I had some trepidation before watching the film about the casting. Rather the omission of Dollars stalwart Clint Eastwood.
I needn't have had those thoughts. Charles Bronson appears to fill his role as the gunslinger with little vocabulary (rather a harmonica) with ease.
You can see some of the Bronson hallmarks of revenge in his character incidentally called Harmonica!
The music from composer Ennio Morricone is excellent again. A blend of late sixties/seventies guitar strings with the harmonica influence.
I watched with the television on high volume to appreciate the soundtrack and some excellent sound effects such as rusty railway station signs blowing etc. during tense stand offs opitimised by staring of characters!
The stand offs do drag on at times and inevitably the run time of the film goes up. One of my few complaints.
The polished appearance of the film whilst noticeable goes against the lower budget grittiness of Leone's Dollars trilogy.
The American locations are used to full effect as the story revolves around the expansion of railroads.
At times I felt I was spotting excellent actors from other films I have enjoyed such as Henry Fonda and Gabrielle Ferzetti (On Her Majesty's Secret Service).