Once Upon a Time in the West / C’era una volta il West (1968)

5.0 out of 5

Something this heavily touted as the best western ever made will no doubt be faced with is impossibly high standards from viewers seeing it for the first time, but Sergio Leone’s epic western, Once Upon a Time in the West, will shatter those standards.

Each of the main characters are well integrated into the central plot and will be permanently etched into viewers’ brains primarily on account of such great casting, which includes, but is no way limited to, Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Gabriele Ferzetti, and Claudia Cardinale, who is quite possibly the strongest presence. Despite being purposefully slow paced for the sake of developing tension and utilizing visuals, the movie is never boring, and its near three hour running time feels like an indulgence rather than a chore to sit through.

As with any film that is graced with Ennio Morricone’s scoring, music becomes a major strength and a key player in lending a haunting memorability to the characters, setting, and story, especially the climatic finale where tension and emotion reach an all-time high, questions are answered, and viewers are thoroughly satisfied with what is truly an incredible experience. The closing scenes of the railroad track building help reinforce the historical and cultural authenticity that makes Once Upon a Time in the West such a remarkable era piece.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics