Writer: Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone (Screenplay) Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone (Story)
Starring: Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti, Paolo Stoppa
Plot: A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.
Tagline – There were three men in her life. One to take her… one to love her… and one to kill her.
Runtime: 2 Hours 44 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Verdict: One of the Best Westerns You Will Ever See
Story: Once Upon a Time in the West starts when Jill McBain (Cardinale) arrives to her new home, only to find her whole family killed, husband and children. The fingers point at desperado Cheyenne (Robards) only we know it is ruthless assassin Frank (Fonda) who will kill anyone.
Jill joins forces with mysterious Harmonica (Bronson) and Cheyenne to get back at Frank and the ruthless Railroad Baron Morton (Ferzetti) who has targeting the widow.
Thoughts on Once Upon a Time in the West
Characters – Jill McBain is a woman from New Orleans, her family has moved to Utah to create a new life with her joining them, only when she arrives her family has been killed. Believing she has lost everything it is the strangers she meets which help guide her to get her revenge on the people who committed the crime. Frank is the assassin working for the Baron, he uses his gang to kill anyone he is asked to kill showing no remorse whether it be man, woman or child. Cheyenne is the outlaw known around the land, he is the prime suspect for the family’s murder, though he has rules to never hurt a child, he helps uncover the truth behind the crime. Harmonica is the mysterious stranger who is in town, he will help Jill get revenge on the men behind her family’s murder.
Performances – Claudia Cardinale is wonderful in this leading role, in a genre generally dominated by male performers she shines in her role. Henry Fonda as the cold-hearted killer is a join to watch as well, we believe his evil in every scene he is in. Jason Robards is fantastic too as his Charles Bronson with this film easily have four of the best performance you will see in any film.
Story – The story here follows one woman that loses her family to outlaws and joins forces to learn the truth with to other outlaws. This can be looked at as a simple revenge western which in parts it is, but at 2 hours 44 minutes long you must be thinking how doe the time pass. If we are honest the time flies by and each character gets the chance to develop to give us a full understanding of everything that is going on. This is how you can tell a simple story with interesting characters that get the back story to make you care while still on revealing certain parts late in the film. this is one you need to experience just to understand the masterclass in storytelling we got here.
Western – Western’s are easily one of my weakest genres to enjoy, in this film we see what a western is all about, moving away from the big city to start and build a new life with the dangers of the cowboys and outlaws trying to take anything from anybody. The music helps us completely understand this is a western with the gunslinging coming from all corners.
Settings – The film put sus in the middle of the land you would expect any western to be set, desert locations without many resources and the railroad looking to come through the towns.
Final Thoughts – This is easily one of the greatest westerns every made, it uses the themes wonderfully and gives us four strong characters with proper development.
Overall: Must watch western.