Movies I’ve Recently Seen: He Ran All the Way, Once Upon a Time in the West, & The Aeronauts

I’m actually finding time to see movies again.

A He Ran All the Way (1951), Criterion Channel

I never heard of this short, cheap crime thriller until Saturday evening, and it blew me away. A violent robbery goes wrong, and a guard is dead. The killer (John Garfield) finds himself in the apartment of a very nice family, including a young adult daughter (Shelley Winters) who’s sweet on this new guy in her life – even when he’s brandishing a gun and keeping the family hostage. Garfield gives one of his best performances as the thick-headed thug who wants to be liked by his victims. Very suspenseful from the beginning to the end. Co-written, without credit, by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo.

The Criterion Channel lists this noir as part of a collection called The Art of the Heist, although it’s in no way as a heist film.

B+ Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Netflix

After The Good, the Bad, and the UglySergio Leone had a much bigger budget for his follow-up western. This time, he could afford Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, and Charles Bronson in the Clint Eastwood part. Leone even shot part of the film in Monument Valley. The movie starts with what is probably the best opening sequence in western history, followed by a scene where Fonda – the blue-eyed icon of decent America – murders an unarmed young boy in cold blood. With the bigger budget, Leone could create a sense of epic grandeur. But the story, which involves the coming railroad and who owns the land, is something of a mess.

B The Aeronauts (2019), Albany Twin

In the air, this visually beautiful period adventure will take your breath away and put you at the edge of your seat. But on the ground (mostly in flashbacks), it’s clichéd and obvious. In 19-century England, a young scientist (Eddie Redmayne) wants to go higher than anyone else in order to study the upper atmosphere. Felicity Jones plays the balloon expert needed for the expedition. As they go higher, they face worse dangers – until the climax, when the problem is the dangers of a fast decent. Both stars are believable and likeable, and Jones especially shows off her athletic capabilities. If the flashbacks were fewer and more interesting, I would have given The Aeronauts a much better grade.