𝐏𝐚𝐨𝐥𝐨 𝐌𝐚𝐜𝐆𝐮𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐧’s review published on Letterboxd:
In Once Upon a Time in America Sergio Leone traces the rise of Noodles and Max (superbly played by Robert De Niro and James Woods), and their gang of very young Jewish immigrants who, as they grow up, will reach the top of New York's organized crime scene. The film begins and ends in a den above a Chinese shadow puppet theater, where Noodles is used to smoke opium, a drug that increases visionary abilities and alters the perception of time. And it is precisely time that is the real protagonist of the film. A succession of events spanning over fifty years, broken down into a complex interlocking between different planes and moments, in a skilful game of flashbacks and flashforwards, to represent Noodles' clouded kaleidoscope of memories mixed with dreams. The result is an epic shadow show that narrates, like a dark fairy tale, the unfolding of a life: friendships, loves, betrayals, violence. Passions that Leone uses, transcending the gangster genre, to pay homage to the America to which he has always been linked, but - at the same time - to dwell on the degeneration of the American Dream. Once Upon a Time in America is not only the culmination of an entire career, but it is also a heartfelt and powerful act of love for certain USA cinema and literature. A sublime container that encloses both Leonian poetics and a reinterpretation of the work of other great artists: filmmakers such as Ford, Huston and Coppola, or authors such as Chandler, Hemingway and Fitzgerald.