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Many action movies rely on fast-paced action to keep the audience interested. Today, loud sounds of gunshots and car chases are not unusual for adventure films. However, some movies take a different approach and build up the tension with silent scenes and a slow introduction. This is true for the classic movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, directed by Leone in 1966. This so-called Spaghetti Western follows the journey of three men blinded by greed. Each man is introduced with an adjective – Blondie, the good, Angel Eyes, the bad, and Tuco, the ugly. As the three characters travel across the state separated by the Civil War in the hopes of finding a fortune of gold, the audience can see the differences like these cruel men. This paper aims to explore the central themes of the movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Some critics consider this movie to be a representation of a classic Western. However, the extreme violence of the main characters can be seen as an attempt by the director to create a film that criticizes the original themes of Western movies. Most Westerns focus on the struggle of a heroic protagonist who does not kill unless it is necessary. In The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the characters can be viewed as antiheroes as they pursue their goals aggressively and violently. One of the protagonists, Angel Eyes, is a ruthless mercenary that kills his clients after receiving his payment. His scenes are incredibly violent and show his emotionless nature. The second, Tuco, is a bandit, whose thirst for gold can be explained by his occupation. In contrast, Blondie, a bounty hunter, is portrayed as a confident and calm man that does not shy away from violence to reach his goals. Moreover, all three characters lie and deceive without hesitation. Their complex morals are uncommon for these types of movies.
The tension of the movie is also created by the contrast between long, silent scenes and action sequences. For instance, the first minutes of the movie is entirely devoid of any dialogue. Wide shots, coupled with close-ups of characters’ faces, show that actions define these men better than words. This is especially true for Blondie; the close-up of his face in the scenes with most tension often portrays him as an unflinching person who has a plan for everything. Thus, the need for dialogue lessens, and the main character’s interactions are limited to a small number of phrases, while other characters fill the silence. This choice of method can be seen as a way to establish the dominating masculinity of the protagonists as opposed to the other men in the picture. The film implies that these men do not need words and they would rather act to prove their point (Leone). This portrayal also outlines a lack of compromise that the characters are willing to reach with each other. The need for dominance is apparent as they continuously attempt to outwit the other men.
The anti-war sentiments of this film are followed by a negative presentation of people’s greed and love for money. The movie takes place during the Civil War, and the protagonists use this setting to their advantage. The scenes that depict victims, as well as Blondie’s compassion towards fallen soldiers, are not incidental. He is the “good” of this movie. Thus, his actions and words can be deemed as positive.
The movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is considered a classic for a reason. Its use of a variety of shots and the mixture of quiet and action-packed scenes are impressive. Moreover, the protagonists of this movie are complex and unusual for the genre of Westerns as the film chooses to show the lives of men that have selfish motivations and different personalities.
Leone, Sergio, director. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Constantin Film, 1966.