This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Nick J’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Sergio Leone has slowly crept up into my Top 5 favorite directors and this film may have solidified his place there. Leone's Westerns have always been personal favorites because of his ability to take a tired genre and do amazing things with it, whether it be incredibly smooth action in the "Dollars" trilogy or make a sprawling epic with "Once Upon A Time In the West", but never did I expect him to take the gangster genre and make something truly special with it. Gangster films have been a favorite genre of mine in recent years, with films like "Little Caesar", The Godfather, and "Goodfellas" always wowing me with exciting action, great performances & characters, and glamorous sets & cinematic techniques, but the fact that Leone can take the best aspects of those, craft a story that feels both grounded and fantastical, and let a sprawling epic about corruption, friendship, and manhood breathe is unbelievable. This is one of those films that I could not fathom existing: a nearly four-hour epic of tense silence and grand action, of great characters who are great because of their imperfections, of what taking the identity of a gangster really meant. I was really thinking of Robert De Niro being overrated after being disappointed with "The Godfather Part II" and "Taxi Driver", but he really sold me with his range in the role of David "Noodles" Aaronson, his ability to put up a gangster front even when deep down he's not as loud and as expressive. The bond between the gangsters from childhood until their demise is such a fantastic dynamic with great performances, for once a film about gangsters not trying to eventually backstab one another but truly form a brotherhood and Max's internal conflict about his destiny is what leads to their demise. Don't get me started on Dominic's death. The romance between David and Deborah is spectacular and fairytale-like with an amazing score behind their scenes, and it's truly upsetting to see what happens to their relationship as we see how truly ugly a person David is because of his life and his occupation. This is truly a film that has it all and does it phenomenally: phenomenal performances, phenomenal action, phenomenal romance, phenomenal set design, phenomenal score, a phenomenally efficient script. The final twisting act is truly something to behold.
This is what an epic looks like: greatness in every technical aspect, a sprawling story with twists and turns, emotional moments that were built up to, a feeling where the parts of the story constantly evolved sometimes to the point of no return. I don't think this is a film for everyone, but this is a film that I feel truly floored me and truly moved me. To me, this is probably as close to a perfect film one could get.