(Review originally written at 12 August 2009)

Of course lots of westerns are far from original. They often imitate each other and the always feature all of the same ingredients and clich├ęs. Also the characters are often alike, as is its overall style. Leone movies are also like this, with as a difference that Leone was the trend-setter and pioneer for the genre and above all things also was at the top of his game.

What also really makes this movie distinct itself is its story, that makes this movie a real original as well as great one to watch. It's entertaining, adventurous and all truly original as well, as far as the genre is concerned. It takes some original approaches such as for instance featuring a woman in a central role. Normally women feel very out of place within a western and distract a lot from the movie its story. The love-stories are annoying and never work out as they should. They take away a lot from the movie. In this movie they actually managed they let it all work out well for the movie. I think this is simply due to the fact that Leone featured the female role in the movie quite prominently, while in other cases they were merely supporting characters, with like 5 minutes of screen-time.

But aside from the female part in the movie, the actual story itself is also just great and perfectly written. Surprisingly enough the story got created by two of Italy's greatest Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci, who are best known as directors and normally weren't every involved much at all with the western genre. What I foremost liked about the movie was that it perfectly knew how to feature 3 different characters, of which none of them you really knew what to think about them till the end really. None of the is fully good really and none of fully bad. It's not a black and white story and the characters are not one dimensional. It's not really a typical western, which is also positive for the people who aren't really into the genre. It features plenty enough of ingredients and themes to make this movie perfectly watchable for all people, even more so than usually is the case with a Leone western.

The movie is a typical Sergio Leone western, that features his distinctive and trademark style. The movie once more proofs that he was a great story-teller, who could tell an epic tale, without having too feature a lot of dialog. It's a bit of late western from Leone and the '60's were coming at and end. This means that the style is a bit different from his earlier acclaimed westerns. This mostly can be seen back in the movie its cinematography that is quite dynamic at times. but still of course the movie features lots of long, empty shots, with nothing but people staring and close-ups. All of the things Leone became so well known for.

The movie has quite a surprising cast. Most surprising thing perhaps is that it doesn't feature Clint Eastwood and instead this time has Charles Bronson in it as the mysterious gunslinger. Also no Eli Wallach or Lee Van Cleef in this one but instead there are Jason Robards and Henry Fonda, in the most villainous role, while he had never played a villain before in his career. All of the actors are nevertheless well cast and each of them give fine performances.

It's a movie that slowly moves toward its end. At first you don't know who all of the characters are and what their motivations are. Also each of their story lines seem to have nothing to do with each other but as the movie more and more progresses you realize that they actually do and their faith are all bounded to each other. It's build up to its end that mostly certainly does not disappoint, not in the least. It has a great and also a bit of surprising ending that for instance is just as memorable as the end of "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo".

The movie and some of its scenes are also made by it's music by Ennio Morricone. It's one of his most memorable western scores and has a couple of nice different themes in it.

A great tale, even for those who aren't really into the genre.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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