10/10
A superb film
24 September 2020
I consider this to be one of the greatest films of all time.

Why is it one of the greatest films of all time? Why; because everything in and around it contribute strongly to make the experience greater than the sum of the parts.

The photography is superb; Leone's use of Techniscope brings the magnificence and drama of Arizona/Utah/(Spain!) to front and centre. The landscapes and long tracking shots are stunning. Leone also uses the full-frame close ups of the faces of the characters to invite the viewer into the powerful emotions of each. We can see every pore in the faces of Harmonica (Bronson) Jill (Cardinale), Cheyenne (Robards) and Frank (Fonda); complete with his wonderful blue eyes. This device is akin to us looking at a mirror and seeing ourselves; in effect, we are invited to see ourselves as each of the characters, invited into their turmoil. It's brilliant.

The music by Ennio Morricone is superb. Truly one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Leone uses this (which was written and recorded before filming commenced) to tremendous effect - building rise and fall into the imagery and storytelling. Leone simply lets the music do the talking.

Some have commented that the story is "thin". I don't agree. Better to look at the journey of each of the characters. I include the railway as a character too. Jill is redeemed; she comes out to the west looking to make a new start and to purify herself. It doesn't look like she will succeed - but by the very end, she does. Harmonica has been appallingly and shockingly damaged in early life. His redemption is vengence. Cheyenne is a bad guy who, in fact, is hugely improved by his contact with Jill early on in the film. Jill is his redemption. Frank is just unremittingly evil - sadistic and vicious. There is no possible redemption for him. Morton the railway baron is not redeemed either and neither should he be for his murderous sponsorship of Frank. As for the railway; it ploughs on into the west - into the future.

A superb film.
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