Once Upon a Time in the West review

Number 22 on the top 1000 films of all time is Sergio Leone’s 1968 Once Upon a Time in the West. 

Jill Mcbain is a recent widow whose husband, has recently bought the land of Sweetwater, where a new railway station will be built, has been killed by Frank (Henry Fonda) intending to frame a bandit called Cheyenne for the murder.  Jill teams up with Cheyenne and a mysterious Harmonica-playing gunman called Harmonica (Charles Bronson) to take revenge on Frank.

Like the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, this film has a great musical score, which really served to ratchet up the tension.  What makes the score even better is the film’s sound effects that are incorporated into the musical score.  For example, the film’s opening scene has sound effects like a tapping boot or a buzzing fly, which merged well into the sound rack, thus further contributing to the tension-building in the film.  The best example of this is when Harmonica plays his harmonica and this is intertwined very well into the background musical score.  Also, like in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the camerawork was also great, alternating between long master shots showing the vast expanse of the Wild West to small closeups that emphasise little details in a scene.

I really had trouble following this film from the outset.  I was confused from the beginning and it took me a while to settle into the film.  I had a vague idea of what was going on, but it was so vague that I had to constantly read internet synopses to try and catch up on everything that I missed.  I also got very confused over which character was which, especially with Frank and Harmonica, which I got very mixed up about.  As for the bandit Cheyenne, I was aware that he was in the film, but I wasn’t sure which character he was.

Whilst the film had a great musical score and interesting camerawork, I found it too difficult to follow and the characters confusing, which detracted from the viewing experience for me. 

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