Alex Holmes’s review published on Letterboxd:
I mean if you’re gonna rip off someone, may as well be the best right? That being said - calling this film a rip off is doing a great disservice. Yeah the plot gets lifted straight from Yojimbo but in lesser hands it really would have been a rip off. But Leone’s distinctive style, Eastwood’s iconic performance - hard staring and cool as hell - and Morricone’s mythic score; they all combined to make something more than the some of its parts. All 3 would go on (together) to bigger and better things but it all starts here and it’s not for nothing that this movie started then all off, it’s a heck of a film. And the ending is....well it’s just crazy good.
For someone whose father watched a lot of John Wayne (which means I did too) A Fistful of Dollars hit me like a meteor and everything felt like such a crazy contrast to the clean cut world of John Wayne (who obviously as an actor has his fair share of grey characters but you get what I mean). Eastwood was cut from a wholly different cloth from Wayne, a new and different type of masculine - this wasn’t your Dad’s noble sheriff but a laconic cool badass. This wasn’t a colourful history like She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. This was something...that felt some how more familiar and real than typical westerns and yet entirely otherworldly and mythic - like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table it was real and yet fantastical. In other hands this wouldn’t have happened and it think it really is a large part down to Leone and Eastwood who sell this mythic west.
But the real hero? It’s Morricone. It’s his music that elevates this. When his score isn’t playing the movie is good, even pretty good. But when that score hits, it’s great and becomes mythic and elevates every frame it pervades; transportive and able to express so much when paired with Leone’a frames. Eastwood and Leone are the solid ground but it’s Morricone who blows this thing into something truly new and different that feels like it’s stand apart from the “regular” westerns such as they’d been. This isn’t the west - it’s The West. We couldn’t have done it without him.
Here’s to you, Ennio.