At a monumental near 4-hour runtime the film finds Noodles (De Niro) as a teenager starting out in crime in 1918 contrasting with his return decades later. Presented in a non-linear fashion, the film is masterfully structured and flows seamlessly between each section as the story plays out.
Due to the substantial runtime the film is able to dramatize all three sections of Noodles’ life with great depth. The Manhattan on screen is one of the most thoroughly immersive and engaging ever put on screen. The visual style and set design of the film is masterful. The score from the late Ennio Morricone is perfect, integrating his famous Western tones with a jazzier style and effective use of panpipes.
James Woods is brilliant as Max, Noodles’s best friend, cocky and cunning with a vicious temper - their chemistry is utterly convincing. Joe Pesci has a smaller role here but leaves a significant impression on the story and Elizabeth McGovern is a memorable Deborah. ‘One Upon a Time in America’ is a masterpiece, not just within its own genre but in film as a whole. Do not miss this rare screening.