The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Review

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a 1966 Spaghetti Western directed/written by Sergio Leone and cowritten by Luciano Vincenzoni, Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli and Mickey Knox. The film has garnered a reputation as being one of the best, if not the best, film in the Western genre since its release.

Story
A cowboy (Clint Eastwood), a bounty hunter (Lee Van Cleef) and a drunk (Eli Wallach) all hear about a $200,000 treasure hidden in a graveyard and the entire film is a race to see who will reach the money first.

You'd think a premise like that would lead to a short movie, but the writers got everything they could out of it. Instead of going right into the plot, we have an entire act dedicated to setting up the characters, their personalities, their motivations and their world. This makes it so that we can focus on the adventure through the second and third acts without too much character exposition.

The character who's developed the most is Wallach as Tuco, a treacherous drunkard who teams up with Eastwood's "Blondie" to find the money. He's the most expressive and lively out of the three titular characters and gets a good emotional scene with his priest brother. "Blondie" is the character that everybody thinks of when they hear the word cowboy: he's the strong silent type and has a ton of great lines and moments. He's not exactly developed and he doesn't really go through a character arc, but it's the mystery of him that makes him interesting and fun to watch. Where did he come from? What's his story? We'll never know and part of us doesn't want to. The least interesting character is probably Cleef as Angel Eyes, the bounty hunter. He's just kind of boring; he doesn't have any memorable lines or cool moments and his personality doesn't really stand out. He's just a greedy bounty hunter looking for money and that's kind of it. I wouldn't mind that so much if he wasn't referenced in the title; he's the Bad. Why is one of the main, titular characters so forgettable and boring, especially the villain? That should be the aspect of the movie you walk away remembering, shouldn't it?

The screenplay is a compilation of some of the coolest lines I've ever heard in a movie, most of them coming from "Blondie". They're kind of like action movie one liners, except they have a little more class and grittiness to them. They didn't feel like that came out of a screenwriter; instead they sounded completely natural.

Technical
Normally, a film shot in technicolor would feel dated. Normally, a drama shot in technicolor wouldn't fit the tone (that's why Psycho was shot in black and white). However, with Good/Bad/Ugly it works to the film's advantage. Because all the backgrounds are mostly of yellow sand and the set/costume designs are different shades of sand-yellow and brown, it makes the setting feel more genuine. It also makes everything feel older which, again, strangely works to the advantage of the film. It makes it look like the whole world is covered in sand and has been that way forever, kind of how you'd expect the old West to look.

This film doesn't use a lot of the camera conventions that were used in Hollywood during the 60s. While movies like Psycho were using medium (waist up) shots for their shot-reverse-shot conversations, this film almost exclusively uses closeup (head) shots. Another interesting thing is that during certain scenes, Leone chose to use shots where the actor's entire face took up the frame and even some times extreme closeups of the actors' eyes. My guess as to why they did this is that the shots acted like a countdown or a cue to something about to explode. For example, there's a great scene near the end of the film where there's a three way standoff between the good, the bad and the ugly. There are several shots of their faces as they look from one to the other, wondering who's going to fire at whom. Then, as the moment of truth gets closer, we get extreme closeups of their eyes and the guns at their sides. Then, they fire their weapons. I think that the closeups of their faces leading into the extreme closeups of the eyes is like a countdown for the movie leading to the moment of them shooting.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the epic landscape shots. I have nothing to say except they look amazing! The shots of the desert that they do are epic in scope and really make you feel like you're watching a big, grand, important story.

There was one idea involving the cinematography that I found really interesting, but they never used for the rest of the movie. In the opening scene, you see a group of men walking through a town, with obvious intent of hunting somebody. While they're walking through this empty, quiet town the camera angle is looking at them through the alleys between the buildings. I found it engrossing because it made me feel like I was a nervous townsperson peaking around behind a building, waiting tensely for people to start shooting. I really liked this effect, but they never use it again in the movie. I just think it would've been cool to have seen it more.

The blocking needs to be mentioned because I'm surprised how well they did with it. In a movie, you need to make sure that everybody knows where your actors are in a scene, which is hard enough to do in a normal movie. However, this is a huge movie with big, broad, epic sets that characters are often fighting, running and dodging through. I'm impressed that the director was able to keep us understanding where everybody was in the scene.

The makeup is nothing spectacular except in one scene where "Blondie's" face has been badly sunburnt, with skin peeling off and dried up lips. I actually said to myself, "Either that's really good makeup or Clint Eastwood really sacrificed his face for it to look like that." I'm going to go with really good makeup.

The costumes look really good. They all look like they're covered in dust and have been worn by use, which is what you'd expect from a world of men trying to survive in the desert. This takes place during the Civil War, so we also see some military uniforms. I can't say whether they were historically accurate or not, but they looked fine to me.

The music is amazing! Not only do we have the iconic opening music, but we also have several more amazing tracks by composing legend Ennio Morricone. Oddly enough, though, 90% of the soundtrack is the opening song, which I don't understand, but won't complain about.

The acting is overall fantastic, with Wallach as Tuco a highlight once again. He shows the most range out of the cast, going from sad to energetic to nervous. I also think he's the best because he can somehow get across the feeling of a blowhard even when he's acting all tough and confident. I imagine that'd be difficult to pull off. I'm not sure if I can say that Eastwood gives a good performance, as he barely emotes outside of scowling, but he has pitch-perfect delivery of the film's best lines.

Summary: This is a masterpiece of the Western genre and an amazing piece of film in general. It's iconic for a reason and will probably be remembered for many more generations to come.

A

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