By Leroy Douresseaux
March 13, 2008 - 19:08
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Logan Lerman, Dallas Roberts, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Vinessa Shaw, Alan Tudyk, Luce Rains, Gretchen Mol, and Ben Petry
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
WRITERS: Halsted Welles and Michael Brandt & Derek Haas (based on the short story by Elmore Leonard)
PRODUCERS: Cathy Konrad
GENRES: Western, Action, Thriller, Drama
RATING: MPAA – R for violence and some language
Director James Mangold’s rousing, edgy Western, 3:10 to Yuma, is a remake of a 1957 film of the same name that starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. Mangold (Walk the Line) isn’t robbing the grave of Hollywood classics; instead, he has fashioned the Western as a modern, suspense-thriller that is as close to an old-fashioned horse opera as a modern film can be.
Rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) struggles to support his ranch and family during a long drought. Desperate for money, Evans agrees to transport the captured outlaw, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), from nearby Bisbee to Contention, the closest town with a rail station. There, they’ll wait for the 3:10 train to Yuma, where Wade will be imprisoned while awaiting trial for his numerous crimes, mostly murder and robbery. Holed up in a Contention hotel, Wade attempts psychological havoc on Evans, offering Evans much more money in exchange for his freedom than he would get for holding Wade captive. Meanwhile, Wade’s henchmen, led by the vicious Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), storm into town offering money to any man who will shoot Wade’s captors. Complicating matters, Dan’s son, William (Logan Lerman), has stubbornly joined his father on this deadly mission.
Mangold’s sturdy remake isn’t an exercise in pointless violence, although the film is indeed violent, and while it is more graphically violent than Westerns from the 30’s to the 60’s, this modern version of 3:10 to Yuma heals the wounded heart of the Western genre which has, with a few exceptions, been in steep decline on the big screen. This is a grand character study, and acting its chief strength, relying on the considerable talents of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.
|Logan Lerman and Christian Bale in a scene from the film.|
The good guy/bad guy relationship between Crowe’s Ben Wade and Bale’s Dan Evans has to be played just right in order to work, or the relationship will seem like a tired old storytelling cliché. The characters that Bale usually play seem like the everyman as quiet man. Evans isn’t a hero or even a brave man, as we usually think of bravery, and his son William reminds him every chance he gets, by words, with a stare, or in his sullen expression. Evans, however, is determined this one time – in dealing with Ben Wade – to be heroic.
On the other hand, Russell Crowe’s Ben Wade is the devil – pure and simple. Supernaturally wily, he seems faster, stronger, smarter, and more vicious than any other human he encounters. He has given in to his pure instincts and wants – like an animal, but much more dangerous because he is ultimately a human without the checks and balances of ethics and morals.
The viewer wouldn’t be overdoing it by seeing Evans as the Christ-like sacrifice and Wade his devilish tempter. The good/bad dynamic, however, is a staple of the Western, and 3:10 to Yuma is rife with the genre standards. That is how this extremely well-acted and superbly-directed film honors the American Western, and 3:10 to Yuma honors this venerable genre with gusto.
2008 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Marco Beltrami) and “Best Achievement in Sound” (Paul Massey, David Gaimmarco, and Jim Stuebe)