Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

We begin with my favorite movie, a Sergio Leone classic, “Once Upon A Time In The West”. Released in 1968, the film stars Charles Bronson (Harmonica), Claudia Cardinale (Jill McBain), Jason Robards (Cheyenne), and Henry Fonda (Frank), perhaps the most villainous villain to ever grace the silver screen. Filmed in Italy, Spain and the US, it is the arguably one of the best Spaghetti Westerns ever made.

Film Poster

The movie, without revealing too much about it, follows the journey of four very different characters. Set in the American Mid-West, it bravely shows the grit and toughness that is required to live in the American desert.

Before I begin to tell you why I like this movie so much, let it be known that it runs a little under 3 hours, quite the length when compared to modern films. What it may lack in fast paced action scenes, which it does have, it makes up for in its ability to tell a story.

The story was what made this movie for me. After watching “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” I was turned onto to Sergio Leone’s works. One thing that is apparent in all his movies are a great story, and boy does he deliver with this one. Its a timeless tale of good versus evil and the shades of the two.

My favorite scene is a 7 minute showdown between our protagonist and antagonist near the end of the film. Its one of those scenes where despite no talking, you understand everything that is going through the minds of the contestants.

This was the first time for me watching Henry Fonda preform on camera, and I was blown away. The very first scene you see him in sets the tone of the film. I’ve seen a couple of other movies of his since, but whenever I look up his biography or see him in a movie, I am always reminded of Frank. I’d say that’s a pretty good marker for a pretty great performance.

The visuals in the movie are beyond phenomenal, as they rival the best landscape shots seen in the Lord of the Rings, and 2001 A Space Odyssey in terms of shear brilliance. Complimented with unmatched music from Ennio Morricone, with each character possessing their very own backtrack capturing their very soul and projecting everything that comes with them through those scores. I liked Bronson’s score the best, a simple series of notes played on a harmonica, yet entrancing in the way it is meshed in. The music speaks for the characters and adds another dimension to the film.

I think this is Sergio Leone’s best work. I’ve seen 4 of his  movies, including “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”, “A Fistful of Dollars”, “For A Few Dollars More”, and so far this one is my favorite. Many people think the GBU is better but I think that with the brilliant performances by Fonda and Bronson in this one, it just nudges past GBU.

I’d give it a rating of “FREAKING AWESOME” for its genre (Drama).

Go out, get it, watch it, and enjoy it, because missing a movie of this caliber and letting it grow out of the minds of the masses is a very regrettable prospect.

10/10

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