Sergio Leone was highly influenced by the Civil War for this film. It’s clear, as the war itself is seen throughout the story. But what most interested Leone was deconstructing who was good and who was bad during this time. Particularly, Leone studied the prisoner of war camps from the Civil War which he said there is always more information to demonize the losing side than there is about the winners, but he knew that both sides mistreated soldiers who were captured. The director would use steel engravings of Andersonville in order to create shots of the camp where Tuco and Blondie are held captive. He also referenced the photographs of Mathew Brady one of the earliest photographers in America who captured scenes from the Civil War. Leone also wanted to show the uselessness of war. That war itself was absurd, and we see this clearly in the scene where Blondie and Tuco blow up the bridge that the North and South are killing each other daily over, but which neither side will destroy because of orders.
Leone has also said that the three main characters Blondie, Angel Eyes, and Tuco represented parts of himself. Angel Eyes being the only one without a spirit. He is a man who is more like a robot than a man, having a mechanical way of living his life. Blondie is the more methodical side of himself and Tuco is the part of him because of how wounded he is as a man.
Leone’s use of long shots down corridors and hallways as well as his composition of the desert landscapes were used to help build tension in the film. They did so because by shooting wide he would allow the image to rest for a long enough period of time to build tension. Then he would use the same concept when he pushed into closeups on the characters. The closeups would reveal the tension that he is building within the eyes of the characters and his switching back and forth between the characters heightened the tension to an even greater degree creating suspense for the audience because they knew something was coming, but when it was coming they didn’t know. All of these factors lead to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly continuing to be a film that is looked at as redefining the western genre and enhancing cinema in the process.