Will’s review published on Letterboxd:
A true “epic”. Arguably Sergio Leone’s best film, Once Upon A Time in America has pretty much everything you’d want. Leone couldn’t have had a better cinematic experience as his last. It had the performances, it has the absolute breath-taking score, the mind-blowing cinematography, the insane editing and an incredible story.
First and for most, I’d like to mention a transition. The transition at the start where Noodles (De Niro) is looking through the hole in the wall. As the camera then cuts to what he is looking at, it is a completely different time period. That transition might single-handedly be the best time-change/memory flash-back transition in all of cinema. When I first watched this, and I saw that I knew I was in for something that I hadn’t experienced before. But the incredible editing techniques didn’t stop there. It’s like that all the way through. There are multiple different cuts that just knock you back.
All through the editing is incredible, it wouldn’t be as impactful if it wasn’t for the beautiful cinematography. Some of those shots, especially the one with Brooklyn bridge in the background (you know the one), will always be considered as some of the best until the end of time. Like the editing, there are multiple accounts that just make you think “how does anyone come up with that”. It is mind-blowing all the way through.
Obviously, I can’t write a review about this and not mention our Lord and saviour, Robert De Niro. If anyone wants to understand why De Niro is so highly praised, watch this. Even though it’s not my favourite performance by him, he plays his character (Noodles) to perfection and he brings everything to the table. There were multiple scenes that felt too real (the rape scene in the car, that’s a difficult watch) and of course James Woods, what an amazing performance.
Last but not least, the score. Ennio Morricone, thank you! Some of the most iconic scenes were taken to a different level with the score. When the song “Yesterday” started to play, it just felt right. It set the mood perfectly in both, the first act and at the end of the 3rd act.
The reason why I’m not giving this a 5 is that I didn’t feel the magic I felt when I first watched it. I’ll always see it as an incredible achievement and it’ll always be respected as one of the greatest films of all time but I couldn’t find the feeling I felt on my first watch.