C'era una volta il West
There were three men in her life. One to take her... one to love her... and one to kill her.
Running Time: 175 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 15
Country: Italy, United States
It’s a tough call to name the best ever Western but Once Upon a Time in the West certainly comes close and once again, it’s that man from Italy, Sergio Leone, showing John Wayne and company how to do it properly.
The film begins as newlywed Jill McBain (Cardinale) arrives at her husband’s farm to find that he and his family have been slaughtered by a gang of mercenaries headed by the dangerous sociopath Frank (Fonda). The reason for their deaths begins to unravel as Jill is helped by the number-one suspect Cheyenne (Robards) and mysterious drifter Harmonica (Bronson) to take revenge on Frank and the crooked railroad baron (Ferzetti) who hired him.
When the movies’ various subplots come together, we are treated to a lesson in masterful storytelling as momentum is gained and the characters motives and are fully and impressively explained. The runtime is a massive 175 minutes but this never feels overlong as Leone includes his trademark panoramic, long shots, iconic gunfights and a little more storytelling than usual.
There are many similarities with Leone’s other first class Western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as the action centres around three main protagonists trying to get what they want and the mixing of good ol fashioned Western action with the arrival of modernity. This time however, a number of the characters come across quite sympathetically and have you rooting for them. Once again, Ennio Morricone pitches in, with a less jokey, more atmospheric score centring around Harmonica’s harmonica (he doesn’t play the trombone as you would think). Once Upon a Time is definitely an original take on the genre and is the most-American of Leone’s Westerns.
It's Got: Perfect cinematography, excellent characterisation and story, atmospheric score
It Needs: To be seen in its fullest form
DVD Extras Two-disc Special Edition wit an in-depth multi-layered comentary, an excellent three-part documentary, stills, trailers and profiles DVD Extras Rating: 8/10
One of the finest Westerns you will ever see, Once Upon a Time in the West offers up great characterisation, masterful storytelling and atmospheric cinematography and score.