The hype is entirely justified. This is one of relatively few Ford Westerns that I like pretty much unconditionally.
It's also one of the most intelligent, poignant, self-aware Westerns out there, without ever becoming arch. The tragedy of Wayne's character is what resonates most powerfully for me; it's expertly traced, and Wayne himself is excellent, betraying plenty of bitterness as his way of life and the woman he loves slip away, but not a shred of self-pity.
Crucially, Ford and cinematographer William H. Clothier handle the key moment - the shooting of Valence - brilliantly, underpinning the legend that subsequently builds up around the event.
For once, "masterpiece" isn't wide of the mark.
Oh, and terrific review Scherp.