3:10 to Yuma

Russell Crowe and Christian Bale revitalize the Western in the stellar remake 3:10 to Yuma

3:10 TO YUMA (2007)
Directed by James Mangold
Starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe
Released by Maple Pictures
122 minutes

Ever since re-watching the brilliant and criminally too short HBO show Deadwood (2004-2006) recently, I’ve been on a major Western kick.   It’s taken me awhile to warm up to this masculine dominated genre but lately I can’t get enough.   If you too are thinking about diving into the world of the old west, your first stop has to be James Mangold’s excellent remake of the 1957 film of the same name 3:10 to Yuma.

Leads Christian Bale and Russell Crowe dominate every moment of the film.   With their strong chemistry and undeniable star power the other actors in the film (including Peter Fonda in a cameo) are barely memorable.   Bale plays Dan Evans, a poor Arizona rancher who has the chance to make some money when the local authorities need help transporting dangerous criminal Ben Wade (Crowe).

The deal is Wade has to be brought to a town two days away so he can be put on a train to Yuma prison.   With debt collectors banging at the door Dan is eager to get the trip going so he can save his family from destitution.

Over the course of their two day journey Ben and Dan develop a begrudging respect for one another.   While neither openly acknowledges it it’s as if Dan and Ben see themselves as opposite sides of the same coin: Dan is the moral and respectable one while Ben is the corrupt and violent one.

As in most westerns, the plot of 3:10 to Yuma ultimately becomes more about a man’s quest for moral integrity than the story itself.   No matter how many times Ben may tempt him, Dan will not take a bribe to let him go.

This part of the western usually bothers me as it usually involves the male protagonist asserting his righteous masculinity over the bad guy and the school marme (or morally pure woman).   But it works for me in this film because after a humiliating experience in the Civil War, Dan sees this experience with Ben as a way of redeeming himself to his family. Dan has the courage to admit (to another man no less) that he’s a flawed man who’s lied to his family.

Director James Mangold may stay strictly within the limits of conventional genre films; be it the romantic comedy (Kate and Leopold) or the bio-pic (Walk the Line) but he does these stories very well.   3:10 to Yuma could be seen as simply a standard western film.

It does have many of the standard western clichés scattered throughout including the saloon gal, the stage coach and Chinese people building a railway, but with solid pacing, an excellent soundtrack and of course the performances by Bale and Crowe, you can forgive Mangold for these very familiar backdrops and enjoy the ride.

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