Once Upon A Time In the West| Review
Updated: May 31, 2022
For many years, primarily from the 1940s-60s, the "American Western" remained extremely popular among both national and international audiences. But during the '60s, the genre started to morph into entirely new sub-genres and was starting to slowly die off. Sergio Leone, a screenwriter at the time, emerged with his own style of directing westerns and would ultimately spearhead "Spaghetti Westerns." "Spaghetti Westerns" were looked down upon in the United States and would carry the same reception as a B-movie. This reception to the genre would follow throughout the 20th century until its films garnered cult-classic status and would receive rightful praise.
Once Upon A Time In the West follows three main characters, Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale), Frank (Henry Fonda), and Harmonica (Charles Bronson) as they all have some part in the McBain property. The property belongs to the McBain family, who were massacred by Frank and his gang the day Jill McBain arrived from Louisiana. Harmonica also arrives, by a separate train, and protects Jill as she deals with the property.
Sergio Leone has directed many masterpieces throughout his career, like The Dollars Trilogy and Once Upon A Time In America but, his greatest has to be 1968's Once Upon A Time In the West. Leone perfectly crafts the film into a masterpiece and defines his filmmaking style thanks to this film. He meticulously blocks every character, regardless of importance to plot, to have the audience feel the suspense and gain the best viewing on every scene, whether a shootout or a conversation. His framing of every shot would go on to influence some of cinema's best action scenes, and even create some of his own, like the opening shootout. It would be hard to describe why any Sergio Leone film is a masterpiece without mentioning Ennio Morricone, who died just a couple of days ago on July 6. The film feels like an epic, the same way Lawrence of Arabia does, due to Morricone's music and Leone's direction. The suspense and size of some scenes wouldn't work the same way without the music. Sergio Leone even recognized this, by stating that Ennio Morricone is one of the best screenwriters he's ever worked with, referring to how the music impacts every aspect in his films. The cinematography of the film also revolutionized many aspects of cinema, by how it emphasizes the landscapes and temperature of every shot. While it wasn't the first to utilize the temperature, the cinematography is masterfully used to play in contrast with the story. The entire film operates as a somewhat meta western. It plays with tropes that audiences have come to learn from watching movies, especially in the beginning. The film always feels as if it's one step ahead of you. Once Upon A Time In the West is the coolest movie of all time, one of the best westerns and films of all time, and one of my favorite films.
R.I.P. Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)
Time Stamp: July 8 2020