Once Upon a Time in America (1984) 4.86/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 87.9
Genre: Gangster
Duration: 229 mins
Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern

A former prohibition gangster called Noodles (Robert De Niro) is given a mysterious message to return to Brooklyn years after he was forced to flee town. His return triggers some heart felt memories of him and his old friends as they rose from street urchins to mob bosses, a story which seems inevitably connected to the answer he’s now searching for. Although, it’s not as iconic as his Dollars trilogy or as profound a cinematic statement as Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone’s last feature film is arguably his most accomplished directorial effort. He crafts a tale so epic on one hand yet so intricately woven on the other that there’s few if any other directors in the medium’s history who could’ve pulled it off. And threaded throughout are innovations and devices so mesmerisingly effective that one is left breathless and near uncomprehending at how one man can be so imaginative. Add to that some truly seminal acting performances from De Niro and James Woods (as Noodle’s former partner), an outright spellbinding Morricone score, awesome production design, and striking cinematography and we’re talking about one of cinema’s most impressive achievements. As with Once Upon a Time in the West, the dialogue is sparse for long stretches but in its place is a dreamy nostalgia that is as repelling as it is enchanting. It’s not always an easy watch as it gets seriously dark in places but as tales of ambition, greed, power, lust, and guilt go there are few finer than Once Upon a Time in America.

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