Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in the West
You’re in a dusty desert. Gun holstered. Three men stand in front of you. Gun holstered. *Several camera zoom-in shots of the eyes* Then.
BANG, BANG, BANG, BA-BANG!!!
What’s not to love about a classic Western, I mean Tarantino is cool and all, but there’s just something about the classics… you know what I’m saying?
Even after the movie, I still can’t, and no, really, I still can’t figure out why it’s called Once upon a time in the West.
Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards and Charles Bronson, this is quite a once upon a tale.
…. What can I say about the story…. it is not your classic tale. There is a train that arrives in this town. Well, actually there are two trains. Two trains that bring two passengers. The harmonica man and the wife (not the harmonica man’s wife).
The harmonica man is met by three men, and bang, bang, bang, he shoots them down.
The wife, on the other hand, goes to her new home, only to find her family dead.
And, there is another guy, an escaped bandit leader who stands accused of murdering the family. Except, the bandit leader was too busy escaping prison to kill anyone.
The three of them are pitted against the villain of the show – Frank.
You getting this? It’s from here a conflict arises.
Who is the harmonica man? He plays the harmonica obviously.
Apart from that… well it’s hard to say. he shoots fast and he’s after Frank.
Why mention the harmonica man? Because he does not have a name. it’s weird. weired. Damn – just watch the movie and tell me – is it not weird?
You know how he introduces himself? Not with a name that’s for sure. He does it with a trumpet in his mouth.
The Harmonica man is a classic hero from a Sergio Leone tale. He is a hero that comes from nowhere and goes nowhere; a hero seen in his previous movies like Good, Bad and the Ugly.
Who is this man? Why does he play a harmonica? Why not a trumpet? Is it because a harmonica is small? Damn it. The confusions!
And you know what? I love it. It builds suspense, and I think the confusion is worth it. He’s the harmonica man.
Charles Bronson, from the Death Wish (for those who remember), acts out a simple man with a singular purpose perfectly.
The master has made the music! None other than Ennio Morricone. You’ve heard his music in the Hateful Hate, and if you’ve watched other Westerns, you’ve heard his music. His music is brilliant.
There is no confusion on this.
A movie is only as good as its villain. A mayor and a thug have the most unlikely partnership.
The thug is a rattlesnake. The mayor is a turtle.
Wait. Crap. Wrong plot. That’s from Rango.
The villains in Once Upon a Time the West are pitted to tell a story of a time before our time, and maybe the time before that. Frank is just a thug. Villain number two is a businessman, a man with a grand vision.
The most unlikely of partnerships and one that unfolds in the best manner possible.
“You can trust me,” says a random man in the movie.
Frank: “How can I trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? He don’t even trust his own pants.” That’s the kinda of villain Frank is. Question – on a side note- didn’t all of them wear suspenders at that time? So they all didn’t trust their pants…
The widow might hurt some feminist sensibilities. Actually, it may not. Or will it? This is confusing! If butt slapping annoys you – then, you’ll be offended.
She isn’t the strongest lead on screen, but she holds an interesting scenario of a woman escaping one horror life and being thrust into another at the edge of existence. Claudia Cardinale, an actress you and I have never heard before portrays a compelling role.
There are two twists.
No, no. actually there are four twists… Or is it three?
Actually, I can’t tell you. You have to watch it, but let’s just say people die.
Once Upon a Time is filled with interesting tales so keep your eyes open and gun ready.
At the heart of it, Once Upon a Time in The West is more than just a wild west, quick gun action film. It’s a tale of the American dream and the expanding frontier of the West. It artfully captures the tale of the west. By far, Once Upon a Time in The West is not Sergio Leone’s best and it has string of cliches in the movie, BUT Sergio Leone sends a reminder from the past – to those watching – that before Tarantino, there was he.
And if you aren’t used to watching classic westerns, be ready for some yawns, but you won’t regret watching it, I hope… Just try not get shot while you sleep through this movie. And if you do manage to watch this movie – tell me! – Why is this called Once upon a time in the west?