Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)


Once Upon a Time in the West Movie Review

Once Upon a Time in the West Movie Review

Once Upon a Time in the West is a 1968 spaghetti western film directed by Sergio Leone. It is one of the most iconic and classic westerns and it achieved that status for all the good reasons.

The plot revolves around a land battle for the construction of a rail road and a mission of vengeance against the killer. Now, both of these stories are well crafted, but the former one is inferior to the latter one. However in the end it gets a proper conclusion as well. But the vengeance mission is of course the highlight and always interesting to watch. The film has a couple of problems and both are regarding the storytelling somehow. First, the film moves at a leisurely pace and although it is never boring which is quite a feat for such a long movie, it’s still affected by a couple of dragged sequences. And it is filled with too many characters, thus achieving confusion at times meaning that it is hard to follow at certain moments. But regardless of that, it is a well crafted and above all hugely entertaining and engaging film which is quite an achievement because it is almost three hours long.

As for the characters, they are pretty well developed, not that good, but definitely satisfying for a western. Frank is the villain here and he’s well executed, he has charisma and is well acted. Harmonica is a typical good guy and nothing to write home about. All the other characters are not particularly intriguing, but Jill is remarkable and the standout character here which is fascinating having in mind that female characters rarely get attention in this particular genre. But she got a lot of attention and that is very interesting and progressive. Yes, she is a prostitute, serves as everyone’s jewel to look at and has all the typical demeanors of a clichéd female character, but she is also an extremely smart, confident and entirely competent woman always  managing to survive in this harsh environment. She is a highlight not only because of her character but also for her relationships and interactions with the men. And she is such a beautiful and incredibly sexy actress with one very memorable and superbly executed erotic sequence that should appeal to everyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

The acting is solid, it serves its purpose but is never particularly good. Henry Fonda is good as a villain, while Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale are fine in their respectable roles, but not one of them ever rises above the solid level. But it is not essential for the genre and the dialogue is solid, so it could be forgiven.

Then there are the technical aspects, all of which truly magnificent. The direction is good, the cinematography is stunning with beautiful scenery and editing is mostly good. But of course the score steals the show here because it is so iconic. And it achieved that status deservedly. It is powerful, memorable and in the end extremely beautiful. It is the kind of soundtrack that sticks in your mind and serves as both the highlight of the film and its biggest strength.

The ending is, apart from the score, the best aspect of the film. The whole last act is so wonderfully executed and crafted that it is a joy to watch. It is epic, emotional, striking and of course elevated by that beautiful score and amazing cinematography. The story is concluded in a great way and the flashbacks are for once superbly realized which is rare, but here they serve the purpose and are intriguing and well filmed, also concluding the story, explaining it and raising tension in the process.

Once Upon a Time in the West is dragged at some points and is slow, but is never tedious thanks to an entertaining plot, amazing cinematography, extremely beautiful and memorable score and phenomenal ending. It is one of the best and most professional and memorable spaghetti westerns of all time.

My Rating – 4,5