Once Upon a Time in the West
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plot in a nutshell
Most films are easy to wrap up in a couple sentences. Not so with this
classic western from the great Sergio Leone. Remember him? The
Italian director directed the infamous spaghetti westerns with Clint
Eastwood, making him a star. This western, done in 1969, is perhaps
Leone's very best.
Charles Bronson plays the 'man
with no name' here, and is simply called Harmonica, since he plays one at
rather odd times. Henry Fonda plays Frank, an evil killer working for
a railroad baron. Jason Robards plays Cheyenne, and half breed outlaw
who's not quite as bad of a man as everyone assumes. And at the center
of all the conflict is the beautiful Claudia Cardinale as Jill McBain, a
widow who has inherited (due to the murder of her new husband by Frank) a
plot of land that means a lot to the railroad baron.
Spoiler Free Thoughts
I saw quite a
few movies over the last two weeks - Sea Biscuit (great), SWAT (better than
I expected), Jeepers Creepers 2 (as stupid as I expected) - but I'm
reviewing this one so that folks that may have never watched it, but love
westerns, take the time to check it out.
is a long movie, around 2 1/2 hours, quite unusual for a western.
While it follows the pattern of other Leone movies (and other westerns) with
it's unknown stranger looking for revenge, the writing and acting here is
top notch. Henry Fonda gets the chance to play a villain, and he does
a fantastic job. For me though, Jason Robards is the surprise, as I'd
never seen him in this type role. He does a fantastic job, and there
was a weary acceptance in the character that worked great.
give up on this movie early. You might be tempted to, because an hour
in you'll still be wondering who the hell are these people and what do they
have to do with each other. But it all comes together nicely, and by
the end you'll understand it all.
cinematography is outstanding here as well, and this is a really beautiful
film at times. This isn't a face paced film, although there are plenty
of gun battles and dead men. There's a few great one liners too, and
the eerie harmonica music is a great touch to the character of the stranger.
Rating - Qualified Buy It
If you love westerns, you should have this film in your collection.
You'll see where recent films stole many of the ideas and styles of Leone,
or built on them in new ways.
If you're not a big western fan, I still recommend seeing the movie, but you
can probably skip shelling out the bucks for it.
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
There's not a lot I'd be in danger of spoiling, but there is one
Ah, Harmonica. Why does
he want Frank dead? When we finally see the death of his brother, and
the meaning of the harmonica, it's a perfect ending to the film. I
always thought the motivation for Sharon Stone's character in The Quick and
The Dead was cool - now I see where it came from.