It’s hard to think of a more iconic and classic western, with such a fervent cult following, than The Good, The Bad, & the Ugly, and few names ring as soundly and as loudly from the mouths of western aficionados than Sergio Leone. Leone’s westerns are a different breed, classified as “spaghetti western”, the genre known to those familiar with Quentin Tarantino and his noted love of the sub-species of films. Reinventing the concept of what a western could be, Leone breathes new life into the at-the-time fading genre, and cements his status as a legend of the cinema.
Right from the beginning, the film’s unbelievably iconic opening credits set the tone and mood, accompanied by an equally iconic score by Ennio Morricone. The film then opens to a typical western setting, a vast, lush, and barren desert landscape, and from there spends an inordinate amount of time setting up the plot and introducing us to the trio of titular main characters and their relationships between each other. Really, the actual plot of the film, aside from an intro sequence featuring the Bad, doesn’t come into play until well over an hour into the film’s three-hour running time, and yet the film still manages to keep us entertained with plotlines and stories and characterizations that make up the spine of the film; the plot being just an added asset to forward movement. Each man brings something unique and special to the table, and the film works best when they play off of each other, which ample opportunities are given for them to do. Even the camerawork is something special; Leone uses every possible framing and blocking, from extreme close-ups to perfectly rehearsed dolly shots, and pieces it together with perfect craftsmanship to give us one hell of a unique experience.
I can’t close this out without mentioning the absolutely perfect Mexican standoff at the end of the film, one of the finest and most memorable scenes in all of cinema. If you watch this for one reason, have it be the lead-up to that famously iconic scene; it may seem overly long at first glance, but anyone with a true appreciation for cinema will end up loving it, and the film in general. Really, if you haven’t seen this one, you still know all about it, either from recognizing the oft-repeated score, or by viewing one of the many copycat productions or re-imagined takes of Leone’s vision. Even with all the knowledge out there, you should really do yourself a service and see the original, to finally realize where all the hype and reference spawned from. This film is everything Leone wanted it to be, and I can’t really imagine how the film could possibly be better than what it is, aside from some pacing issues, but now I’m just nitpicking. This one is definitely worth your time and attention, if you value all different types of cinema.
Arbitrary Rating: 10/10