Akira Kurosawa once said that Toshiro Mifune could give him in three feet of film the emotion any other actor would take 10 to deliver, but in a single flash of Fonda's electric turquoise orbs, Leone (Kurosawa's first and sincerest flatterer-imitator) managed to say as much about John Ford, the devil, and the corruptions of the Way Out Western world as the genre ever would.
Sergio Leone's masterpiece. In Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone pulls together all the themes, characterizations, visuals, humor, and musical experiments of the three "Dollars" films and comes up with a true epic western. It is a stunning, operatic film of breadth, detail, and stature that deserves to be considered among the greatest westerns ever made. (Review of Original Release)
Although I have not seen all his films, I have yet to see a Sergio Leone film I hate. The movies I have seen of his are visually gorgeous with superb scores and interesting stories and characters. Once Upon a Time in the West is no exception. It is long and slow, but I think the film was deliberately paced like that.
Once Upon a Time in the West does take a lot of risks, including improvising the action around the score's moods. This was a risk that paid off. The story is rich and compelling and the dialogue is thought provoking and beautifully written. Leone also proved what a fine director he was by directing so wonderfully on this film.
The characters are great and quite complex, and are further advantaged by being wonderfully portrayed. There is the brutish gunfighter, the beautiful widow, the mysterious harmonica player and the sympathetic outlaw. Henry Fonda particularly does brilliantly in the role of Frank. The visuals once again are exquisite and quite grandiose in its scope and beauty, while Ennio Morricone's wonderfully operatic-like score fully justifies why he is considered one of the all-time great film composers.
All in all, a big and bold western and one unlike any other. It also took risks, ones which could have gone horribly wrong but due to the evident work and care of all involved, they paid off. 10/10 Bethany Cox
It’s probably unwise to come to Leone looking for too much in the way of feminism. Instead, Once Upon a Time in the West offers quintessential examples of the things he was better known for, including another blustery Ennio Morricone score. Visually, he mostly vacillates between extreme close-ups of intense faces and vast widescreen compositions, a technique that is lurching but also luridly beautiful.
The biggest, longest, most expensive Leone Western to date, and, in many ways, the most absurd... Granting the fact that it is quite bad, Once Upon the Time in the West is almost always interesting, wobbling, as it does, between being an epic lampoon and a serious hommage to the men who created the dreams of Leone's childhood.
(Review of Original Release)
Alas, the big screen also magnifies the problems with Once Upon a Time in the West. Specifically, Leone’s insistence on style trumped the need for substance. The film is basically a B-Western stretched an agonizing 165 minutes.
Best western ever made and one of the best movies of all time!!! Everything is just perfect,actors,music,story,picture... Opening scene is best in all movie history and Charles Bronson line:You bring two too many...Best line ever!!!Truly masterpiece
instead of talking, he plays..
C'era Una Volta Il West
Even though these features are overlong and walks on familiar and usual tracks and characters, what works in it, is the gripping and finely detailed screenplay and amazing cinematography that brings out its own stunning methodology. Sergio Leone whose features are similarly looking for revenge, never misses on executing its script to perfection and delivers everything that is expected. Charles Bronson; the protagonist, holds on to its part and is well supported by Claudia Cardinale and Henry Fonda (the best thing that can happen to this installment). C'era Una Volta Il West is a character driven plot that has a wafer thin plot, but its sometimes beautiful and also horrific screenplay is what helps him sail off this boat for around 164 minutes.
I read a quote by Sergio Leone where he said "you only need 3 great scenes in a movie, and no bad ones" or something to that affect, and he did that brilliantly with the dollars trilogy, but here it felt like he was trying to make every single scene in the movie a great one, and while there are quite a few, most of them are drawn out when they shouldn't be and eventually make the movie a chore to watch. Just wish he would've taken his own advice.
Sergio Leone will one day, maybe fifty years from now, replace Mister Wood on every critic's list as the worst movie director of all time. He'll at least make the top ten. At least Wood could make a story interesting, at least one character you might care about, and didn't have the gigantic Leone budget. Leone fails on every level. The story is very disjointed. It's mostly just comically unrealistic gunplay, with some guys being able to kill minor characters from great distances, but unable to kill major stars that should be easier. That's nothing new, but the circumstances are quite laughable. The story is just killing after killing, to take land away, and it follows sadist Henry Fonda, and his opponents, Charles Bronson and Jason Robards. Jack Elam appears in what amounts to a cameo. The characters aren't much to like. Bronson makes little jokes like an underdog hero of a Japanese movie, but the plot is so bad, and the characters so unlikable, you don't really care. To be fair, they aren't as unlikable as other spaghetti Westerns, but they don't have any appeal, either. You struggle to watch the film. You won't be able to do in one sitting. You'll have to watch a piece at a time, because you will fall to sleep. What makes the movie a bomb is the use of such outstanding cool music that neither matches or contrasts the situation. It falls flat, and it is a waste of good music.