One of the monumental achievements in narrative filmmaking, Sergio Leone’s grandiose 1966 western epic is nothing less than a masterclass in movie storytelling, a dynamic testament to the sheer, invigorating uniqueness of cinema.
Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef are their usual taciturn selves as rival gunslingers pursuing a cache of lost gold. So it’s left to Eli Wallach’s Tuco to steal the show, the archetypal pitiable, self-deluded villain, the rotten heart of Leone’s colossal canvas.
It’s hard to name another film with so many iconic, indelible sequences: Tuco following a trail of half-smoked cigars; the unmanned stagecoach thundering through the desert; the operatic Mexican standoff in the graveyard, as Ennio Morricone’s peerless score mounts over five nailbiting, wordless minutes. But what impresses most is the intimacy of Leone’s vision, sketching a vast array of ruthless characters with broad but subtle visual strokes, never losing sight of the humanity amidst the carnage.