Sergio Leone’s 1996 spaghetti western epic is, hands down, my favourite film of all time! And for good reason. Everything is perfect. The direction, the camerawork, the casting, the acting, the story, the locations, the set pieces, the music. All of it. Perfect. All. Of. It.
Let’s start with the story. Set during the civil war, three men all compete to try and find a whole bunch of buried Confederate gold before anyone else can. The story sounds simple enough, but over the 3 hour run-time there are so many twists and turns, alliances and betrayals, that the story never flat-lines and is always interesting and exciting.
More interesting than the story though are the characters. Eli Wallach as Tuco, aka. ‘The Ugly’, is one of the main standouts. His character is the only one given a backstory and that only serves to make his conflicted character even more interesting. Wallach’s acting is on point, so much so that he almost jumps off the screen with personality. The second of the trio is Angel Eyes, aka. ‘The Bad’, as portrayed by Lee Van Cleef. Sinister and unnerving, Van Cleef makes his villainous presence felt in every scene he’s in, menacing the other characters and sharing a particularly brutal scene with Wallach. The final main character is Clint Eastwood’s Blondie, aka. ‘The Good’. Eastwood’s acting, as with most of his roles, comes from his frowns and not from what he says. Which is to say, he doesn’t speak much. But when he does, he means it. It is the acting of these three brilliant actors that makes the film work and holds it together. You could pick any of the scenes they share and it could go down as one of the greatest scenes of all time.
In creating this film Sergio Leone truly created a masterpiece. Leone is one of my favourite directors and he really proves why in this film. The direction of the actors and the camera is beautiful at times. The way he lingers a little too long on some shots, or puts two shots together. The final showdown scene between the three main characters is edited together so amazingly well that it builds tension up to extreme heights as you wait for them to make their move. It is a great scene that should be shown as an example to film students for years and years to come.
What helps make scenes like the final showdown even more epic is the music. Ennio Morricone delivers one of his finest scores ever, creating music that swells to great crescendos to create that epic quality and then toning it down and creating more emotional moments when it needs to. One of my favourite film scores by one of my favourite composers.
As you can probably tell, most of my favourite things are to do with this film. It’s just that great! I love it and could happily watch it over and over again to no end. A timeless classic and surely one of the greatest movies of all time. Go watch it!
JACK’S SCORE: 5/5