17 sept. 2010

My Review: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (10/10)

¨You see in this world there`s two kinds of people my friend, those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.¨

I wonder what would`ve been of Clint Eastwood`s career if it weren`t for the ¨Dollars¨ trilogy. Before working with Italian filmmaker, Sergio Leone, he had a career as a television actor in Rawhide, a western based TV series, but he couldn`t get a decent job in Hollywood so he began to look for work abroad. He reached international success thanks to Leone`s reinvented spaghetti westerns: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966), known as the ¨Dollars¨ trilogy. He proved producers wrong because they thought that people wouldn`t pay to see movies of actors they could see for free on television, but audiences were  more than willing to see him in the big screen. His pairing with Leone couldn`t have worked out better for him since the director`s trademark was combining long wide shots with extreme close-ups. These wide shots couldn´t have been enjoyed as much on the small television sets at home. Eastwood`s rough features and manly charisma also contributed to Leone`s success, and both seemed destined to work with each other. There is no need to see the previous ¨Dollars¨ movies as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly stands out on its own and is actually a prequel since the movie takes place during the Civil War in the early 1860`s before the other plots take place and they are all separate stories that only have Clint Eastwood`s character in common. When I see Eastwood`s latest films as a director I can`t help but think how much he was influenced by the great Sergio Leone. He must have learned a great deal working with the Italian director in this masterpiece. It is just shot beautifully and to perfection by Leone, the cinematography and scenery are amazing and feel real, and the score is perfect. Eastwood may be a different director than Leone was, but he pays close detail to his craft and also knows how to shoot beautifully.

The plot is pretty simple for a movie that is about three hours long, but Leone`s use of the camera and extended shots makes the film longer. He also adds several side stories that work really well in the narrative. The film begins by introducing each character (although in the opposite order: The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good). The film begins with an extreme close up on a bounty hunter (Al Mulock) and then when we see the wide shot there are three of them who are quietly entering a bar. Once the men enter we hear three shots and out comes Tuco, also known as The Ugly (Eli Wallach), who escapes. In the next scene we are introduced to The Bad, Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), who is tracking down a peasant farmer. The scene is truly a classic as no words are spoken for about ten minutes, but the tension can be felt. Angel Eyes is actually looking for information on the location of a treasure of coins lost during the Civil War and he is told a soldier named Bill Carson has it. Finally, we are introduced to Blondie, The Good (Clint Eastwood), who saves Tuco from a group of men who want to turn him in because there is a reward on his head. Blondie saves him only to collect the reward himself, but once Tuco is about to be hanged he shoots the rope and sets him free as part of a scam in which they divide the money. They later turn against each other only to discover the location of the treasure that has been buried and the race begins to see who can get to the treasure first as the three men have different information regarding its whereabouts.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is my all-time favorite Western. Any other film in the genre will always be measured by its standards. The opening scene in which we are introduced to Angel Eyes (The Bad) is just so beautifully shot that no dialogue was needed and we were already hooked (Ennio Morricone´s amazing score can also take some credit for that). The first ten minutes have no dialogue whatsoever but it sets up the general tone of the movie: several wide shots where we can see the great landscape and deserts combining them with extreme close ups of the characters facial expressions, the tension and suspense is built with long and slow scenes and suddenly the violence happens so quickly that we are caught off guard. The film doesn`t celebrate violence, it portrays it truthfully. The main character is the quiet Blondie (The Good), but without a doubt Tuco (The Ugly) is the one who has the most lines and brings some unbalance and goofiness to an otherwise serious picture. One of the funniest scenes is when he is in the tub and one of the bounty hunter shows up to kill him but before shooting he begins the classic speech villains tend to give and Tuco pulls out his gun and fires at him saying, ¨When you have to shoot, shoot, don`t talk.¨ Tuco plays a key role and his character is kind of the gray in an otherwise black (Angel Eyes) and white (Blondie), good guy and bad guy western movie. He breaks the conventionality in the genre. The final Mexican standoff scene is also truly memorable and one of the best shot sequences. This is a truly unique film that has stood the test of time; it catapulted Eastwood into a movie star, and has influenced him on his way to becoming a great director. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is one of my all time favorite movies and is a must see film.

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