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Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)




Sergio Leone


Italy, USA


Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti, Paolo Stoppa Marco Zuanelli, Keenan Wynn, Frank Wolff, Lionel Stander, Woody Strode Jack Alam, Al Mulock


Harmonica (Charles Bronson) and Cheyenne (Jason Robards) joins forces to protect the beautiful Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) from a ruthless assassin (Henry Fonda) working for the railroad. 


Once Upon a Time in the West and I have a history. It is both the first western and the first Sergio Leone movie I've seen. But it's more than that. It is also that film that I watch and makes me see what western lovers see in westerns. It is good on so many levels, each time I watch it I love it a little more. That's the kind of film Once Upon a Time in the West is to me.

The story isn't very complex and it's basically the same as in any other western, not to mention the incredibly slow pace it has, nonetheless it is incredibly compelling as Leone manages to create mystery, intrigue and suspense around so little. There isn't any epic plot twist, still it feels like there are because of how brilliantly the story is told. Also, this is not the kind of story that is supposed to entertain only, but to make you feel something as well.

That, however, isn't by far the best feat of the film. That role belongs to the characters. They are very minimalistic and they barely speak and yet they are well defined, convincing and they feel incredibly real thanks to a solid script, even more solid performances from all the actors involved in the important roles, and, this one is the most important to me, a spectacular camera work. The way Leone captures every single glance, facial expression and body movement is beyond spectacular and the characters really benefit from that.

The characters are also the reason why this will always be one of my favourite westerns. Actually, one particular character, Jill McBain, the only (major) female character. Unlike in most westerns, this is a strong, leading woman. Sure, she still is a prostitute, but she is well characterized and she is fundamental to plot development.

Definitely worth of a mention is the opening sequence. An almost ten minute silent opening sequence where nothing really happens but is nevertheless memorable. One of my favourite openings ever in movies. It's pretty much perfect.

At last but not least there's Ennio Morricone's score. It really adds to the film - if that's even possible considering how spectacular Once Upon a Time in the West already is - adding more drama and emotions. And I'm pretty sure many will agree with me when I say this score is what better than The Hateful Eight's.

This post first appeared on A Film A Day, please read the originial post: here

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Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)


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