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For me, no other movie has captured the Wild West like Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West. When a mysterious stranger with a harmonica protects a beautiful but naive widow from a ruthless train baron and his hired gun, they all soon discover that much more than prized land is at stake.This is more than a movie, it's an experience in my mind, a piece of history, as the west is portrayed as a haunting brutal land that discriminates against absolutely no-one. From the eerie silent opening to the unimaginable and unforgettable ending, Leone takes you down a path that hasn't been explored in a western before or since. 10 outta 10 guaranteed!!!
In an age of quick cuts, shaky Camera and CGI, this Film will likely be
a hard watch for the post ADD Generation. It is SLOW. The
Cinematography lingers. The lines of Dialog are at the most minimum. It
So why is this considered one of the best Westerns ever. Because it is. An achievement that is a testament to the insatiable Love of Cinema, as Art, that the Europeans unabashedly utilize, like the Hug. They are not shy about physical displays of such Affection. That is the essence of this Film. Leone is a Lover and a Hugger. He is constantly hugging this Movie Loving every minute of it.
He Loves the Genre, He Loves the Camera, He loves the Actors Faces, He loves the Landscape, he loves the Mythology, He just Loves and Loves. All that is apparent on the screen. Most likely that is why it is so lengthy. He Loved it all.
What emerges is an Authentic Fantasy. There is on display a gorgeousity of grandeur that is quite a sight. Behold its panorama and its larger than Life Characters with their own quirky Personas and accompanying Musical Riffs. This is so playful and fun. It is all done for the Lovers of the World. Mostly, the Lovers of Movies.
The king of the Spaghetti Western delivers his film with a punch in
every style in the film. The story is again the same revenge based but
need anyone think it to be a negative point when it comes to leone? The
thing in the screenplay and the execution which makes the film more
exciting till the end is that I just pondered all the time about the
characters. They are so mysterious. From the middle things start to
become clear. Till then the way characters are established is going to
be memorable forever. The opening sequence which has the 'wait' is one
of the best sequences in the film. With his tight close ups and slow
reactions of the character, I never felt if the movie was going slow.
Add to that, the intricate music by morricone and we get a hell of a
cinema. The story again involves three main characters. The way they
are introduced doesn't make it easy to identify their personality
traits. The film is good at all times and nowhere for the entire time
did I felt lost.
VERDICT: "A must watch"
In true poetic form Sergio Leone combines all the basic characteristics of classical theater into the dusty, sandy desert of the Wild West. We have tragedy, romance, revenge, comedy and mankind's eternal fight between good and evil. The good guys, despite their suffering always win and the bad guys always get punished or gunned down in bloody gun battle! While sweat runs down each opponent's brow and eyes are twitching; coarse fingers reach for loaded pistols in the sweltering desert sun. Leone has chosen the perfect bad guy in Henry Fonda as he plays the uncouth villain who has lost his soul and staggers through life leaving pain wherever he leaves. Charles Bronson on the other hand the good guy, with a heart of stone, never flinching always standing up against the evil which he has been chasing since his childhood. Protecting all those in his path including the beautiful Claudia Cardinale Bronson plays a superb role, right until the final climatic challenge between him and Fonda. The background music keeps you on the edge of your seat feeling each emotion with each actor; the acting is superb from both villain and hero and the emotions of each and every scene is portrait by Leone to perfection, the scenery and the cinematography are captivating from the drop of sweat which falls into the desert sand to horses chasing into the sunset. This film is the birth place of all modern Westerns.
Wow. I love the top rated reviews for this movie. Almost poetic they
are. If you have not yet seen 'Once Upon a Time...' I envy you. It's
probably my number 1 favorite Western of all times. So that you can
weigh my opinion, I add 'Lonesome Dove', 'Tombstone', 'The Man Who Shot
Liberty Valance', and 'My Darling Clementine' to round out a top 5 list
of Westerns to have with you if trapped on a desert island and you must
watch them over and over. If they gave me 5 more it would likely be the
remake of 'True Grit', 'Open Range', 'Stagecoach', 'The Magnificent 7',
or any of the other Wyatt Earp movies except 'Wyatt Earp's Revenge'. I
suppose 'Unforgiven' should be on the list, but I have never been able
to see what others see in that movie. Have patience with me... I'm also
a sci-fi aficionado, yet it took many viewings of Bladerunner before I
really got locked in.
What you are about to see is the ultimate 'revenge movie' in a western setting. If you have ever seen Sharon Stone's revenge flick 'The Quick and the Dead', fuggedaboutit. Spaghetti Western director Sergio Leone holds court on how to properly serve this genre in 'Once Upon a Time...'.
Here are some things to know about the movie up front without spoiling it for you: 1) It's a bit slow. This is NOT Short Attention Span Theater. The pace of the movie is deliberately slow. It's more like eating a simmered roast than a minute steak. Have a beer or a bowl or whatever to let your self synch down to the pace of the film.
2) Every character in 'Once Upon a Time...' has their own music. Famous composer Ennio Marricone scores this epic film and endows every character with the exact right music to set the appropriate mood. Much of this film is about the score, so tune in and enjoy the ride.
3) If you get confused as to what the hell is going on the movie don't worry. It's not atypical on the first time through. To help with that don't assume all the apparent bad guys are in fact all bad, and don't worry if there appear to be NO good guys for quite some time. It all works out most deliciously.
4) There is an early scene where the Italian beauty Claudia Cardinale walks into the railroad station. A crane shot follows her into the station and then seamlessly tracks up above the station to reveal the town she has arrived in. It is a breathtaking single shot with Claudia's character music blaring out. An unforgettable moment! 5) The DVD has one of the best commentary tracks I've ever heard.
This movie has the greatest opening of any western. The tense silence
which is the hallmark of Sergio Leone's movies, has been most perfectly
executed in this movie's opening.
The acting is top-notch, and the sweeping landscapes are yet again majestically captured as in all of Sergio Leone's classic westerns. The expressions on the character's faces and the intense silences between them add to the mysterious air of the movie. The haunting harmonica score is very appropriate with the theme of the movie: mysterious at first, sounding haunting later on, and finally, oozing heartening emotions. Ennio Morricone is quite possibly the greatest of all the film score composers.
The storyline has quite a few twists and turns, and the characters are well crafted.
The camera angles are simply breathtaking. One minor point that impressed me, was the way Cheyenne's men dressed: their flowing dusters are inspiring, and nearly the best western costume I have ever seen.
This movie is an instant classic. It is different from Sergio Leone's Dollar Trilogy (which includes The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) in quite a few ways, but it has a charm of its own. I would absolutely recommend it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Once Upon a Time in the West is an Italian epic spaghetti western film
directed by Sergio Leone for Paramount Pictures. It stars Henry Fonda
cast against type as the villain, Charles Bronson as his nemesis, Jason
Robards as a bandit, and Claudia Cardinale as a newly widowed
homesteader with a past as a prostitute. The screenplay was written by
Leone and Sergio Donati, from a story devised by Leone, Bernardo
Bertolucci, and Dario Argento. The widescreen cinematography was by
Tonino Delli Colli, and Ennio Morricone provided the film score.
In this epic Western, shot partly in Monument Valley, a revenge story becomes an epic contemplation of the Western past. To get his hands on prime railroad land in Sweetwater, crippled railroad baron Morton hires killers, led by blue-eyed sadist Frank, who wipe out property owner Brett McBain and his family. McBain's newly arrived bride, Jill, however, inherits it instead. Both outlaw Cheyenne and lethally mysterious Harmonica take it upon themselves to look after Jill and thwart Frank's plans to seize her land. As alliances and betrayals mutate, it soon becomes clear that Harmonica wants to get Frank for another reason -- it has "something to do with death."
As in his "Dollars" trilogy, Leone transforms the standard Western plot through the visual impact of widescreen landscapes and the figures therein. At its full length, Once Upon a Time in the West is Leone's operatic masterwork, worthy of its legend-making title.If only the first 10 minutes of this movie still existed, this most hyperbolic of oat operas would still be acknowledged as one of the genre's greatest exhumations.Overall,it is a a landmark Leone spaghetti western masterpiece featuring a classic Morricone score.
...they made amazing films like this one. This is my favorite western,
one of the best ever made. The pacing and filming are pure brilliance
and really build the tension as you work toward the inevitable final
The way each character is introduced makes them feel real and full of personality without the need for explanatory dialogue and I love how the music suits the movie, I can still hear Harmonica's haunting tune in my head. Bronson is excellent as the silent and mysterious good guy and Fonda adds a whole new meaning to the word evil.
The story is tight and all the threads weave together in the end to form an outstanding western of epic proportions that I can't fully describe in words.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perhaps the most famous of Leone's western with unforgettable music score. The story of lone hit-man Harmonica (Charles Bronson) going for his revenge is a classic. Leone in this move hired Bronson for his hero with no name instead of his usual Eastwood. Instead of Eastwood here are another actor heavyweights as Fonda, Cardinalle and Robarts. This story is very good; it follows more plot line for them to cross at the end. Also until the final shootout it is not clear why does Harmonica seeks revenge. Acting is overall very good, weakest links is Bronson who was the worst of main actors, but as he is not required to act much he is good. Fonda is great as villain and is clearly enjoying playing main antagonist. Robarts is very convincing as good natured bandit. Cardinale is very beautiful and also very good as prostitute trying to get a new life. Score is amazing as in all three preceding Leones westerns.
Although Sergio Leone never really made anything better or more
entertaining than The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, in my opinion, he did
come incredibly close to repeating that cinematic feat with this
spaghetti western epic. A stunning work of blazing originality &
featuring precision craftsmanship in nearly all departments of
filmmaking, Once Upon a Time in the West is western in its purest form
that fuses breathtaking art into the legacy of Wild West unlike any
other example before or after it.
The story revolves around a small chunk of land which is the region's only water source. The family that owns the land is slaughtered by Frank & his gang, after which the ownership transfers to Jill, the widow of the murdered family. At night, she is confronted by Cheyenne, a notorious bandit who is suspected of committing the crime & vows to go after the real killer. Also new in town is a mysterious harmonica-playing gunman who has a personal vendetta to settle with Frank.
Sergio Leone earned his reputation as one of cinema's gifted visionaries for his Dollars Trilogy but this film introduces a very mature side of this director & his keen eye for stunning detail, visual narration & cinematic art is noticeable from the opening moments where we see three men waiting at a railway station for someone or something due in the next train. It's a long sequence with no dialogues or action that any other director would've skipped but not Leone. He makes us wait for the inevitable, turning each frame into a visual feast, capturing the boredom of characters reflecting our own impatience & yet effortlessly manages to create an aura of anxiety that ends with sudden violence, thus making it one of cinema's most captivating moments.
Cinematography goes beyond capturing the desert landscapes or events on film as it ended up narrating a story of its own. Making use of slow zooms, controlled movements & perfect close-ups, it brilliantly captures the emotions of its complex characters. The pacing is deliberately slow when compared to Leone's previous works but this slowness did amplify the intense moments & steadily immerses us into its raw territory too. And, Ennio Morricone impresses once again by composing an even more haunting soundtrack for this film compared to his previous compositions & it's easily one of his finest works, if not the finest.
Coming to the acting department, the movie features an ensemble cast of Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards & Claudia Cardinale, who all chipped in with strong & genuine performances. Henry Fonda goes against his usual roles & plays the antagonist Frank, the ruthless, murderous psychopath, with zero empathy and delivers an absolutely cold-blooded performance that ranks amongst his best. Jason Robards does well as Cheyenne, the falsely-accused bandit while Charles Bronson impresses as 'Harmonica', whose unfinished business with Frank is revealed magnificently in the final showdown. And last we have Claudia Cardinale making a fine contribution in the company of men.
On an overall scale, Once Upon a Time in the West is one epic that shouldn't be missed by any cinema lover, especially the fans of westerns, Sergio Leone or Henry Fonda. Yes, the film is very slow but then, it's very smart as well. It marks the birth of a new style, new approach & striking maturity in Leone's work & creativity and is the most perfect film of his celebrated career. Cementing Leone's name in the annals of cinema, Once Upon a Time in the West is an extremely respected, honoured & significant motion picture masterpiece whose legacy is as classic as Sergio Leone's direction, Ennio Morricone's scores & their legendary, unparalleled combination. In short, Sergio Leone's magnum opus. Extremely recommended.
Full review at: cinemaclown.wordpress.com
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