" 3:10 to Yuma is a film that thrills when it's loud, it fascinates when it simmers, and it entrances when it's silent. "
Director: James Mangold
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Tagline: Time waits for one man.
Release Date: September 7, 2007
In Arizona in the late 1800s, infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale), struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the "3:10 to Yuma", a train that will take the killer to trial. On the trail, Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each other's respect. But with Wade's outfit on their trail - and dangers at every turn - the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man's destiny. The best theatrically released Western since Tombstone ensues.MY TAKE
It’s a story of sacrifice. Of redemption. A tale of one man’s effort to give his son an example worth following. Many are those who start down the path of decency, but who will persevere? Dan Evans is tired of the way his kids look at him and tired of the way his wife doesn’t. He has goals and dreams, like anybody else, but he’s determined to make an honest living, even if, as Ben Wade points out, it’s not much of an actual living. But to Evans, he needs to do more than just save his ranch. He has to save his image as it appears in his family’s eyes. The best way to do that is for his son to remember, no matter what happens, that his old man walked Ben Wade to the train when nobody else would.
I could spend all day concocting adjectives and metaphors to describe my enjoyment of this movie, but all that really needs to be said is 3:10 to Yuma is a fantastic film. The Western is my favorite genre, and it’s frustrating that Hollywood has neglected it so much in the last couple of decades. Yuma, like Tombstone before it, represents the possibilities that exist within the genre, and I only hope it serves as a catalyst for more.
As of this writing, I’ve already seen it twice, and I enjoyed it even more the second time. It’s not often a movie gives me goosebumps. It’s extremely rare for a film to give me goosebumps a second time, during the same scenes, when I already know what’s going to happen. My first viewing was filled with anticipation. The second consisted mostly of appreciation. I suggest you see it once for the story then see it again to catch the details.
Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are brilliant, portraying their characters in multiple dimensions and various shades of gray. Crowe’s Ben Wade is typically the type of outlaw you would love to hate, except he’s so complex that he forces you to understand his mindset. He’s dangerous, yet glamorous at the same time. Yes, he robs trains, he kills people, and he fronts a viciously rotten group of men, but he lives by a code. He’s not a ruthless killer bent on destruction; he’s an educated, calculating mastermind who recognizes that it’s man’s nature to take what he wants. And though he lives by a completely different life philosophy than Bale’s Dan Evans, he still honors that for which Dan stands.
After starting off with a bang, the pace slows a bit to develop the characters and the story, but these characters are so deep, and the interaction between Bale and Crowe is so satisfying, that I never once found myself wanting more gunfights or shootouts or wild explosions. Don’t worry though; old-fashioned Western violence abounds. The story development serves to create a simmering tension that absolutely explodes in the final 10 minutes and will leave your teeth clenched and your face pinched. But gunfire is not really the focus. The film’s soul exists in its characters and the situations surrounding them. Keep a close eye on Ben Foster as well. Serving as Ben Wade’s wild-eyed second in command, he’s as remorseless as Wade is deliberate.
Take time to truly absorb the film. Listen closely to Marco Beltrami’s score. Listen intently to dialogue between Bale and Crowe. Pay attention to Evans’ struggle and his desire to be a hero in his son’s eyes. And, I can’t say much without spoiling things, but listen closely to the sound of the train at the end. Like I said earlier, catch the details. This is a film that thrills when it’s loud, it fascinates when it simmers, and it entrances when it’s silent.
I don’t know that everybody will love and appreciate the film as much as I did, and I certainly don’t want to raise your hopes and expectations beyond all reasonable levels, but there’s a reason I’m boldly claiming this is the best Western to hit the big screen since Tombstone, and it’s no mistake that I made the decision to brand this with the elusive five boot rating. Just go see it. If you’re a fan of Westerns then you’ll love it. If you don’t then I pity your calloused soul.
ODDS & ENDS
- Russell Crowe was director James Mangold’s very first choice for the role of Ben Wade. After Tom Cruise dropped out of talks for the film, putting it into turnaround, it was the casting of Crowe that got the production back up and running.
- I would like to join my fellow Christian friends in saying a prayer of thanks that Tom Cruise was not in this film. Cruise could not have pulled off the role of Ben Wade. Feared outlaws have to be taller than 5’4″.
- Eric Bana was in initial negotiations to star opposite Tom Cruise.
- It’s classified as a remake of the 1957 film by the same name, but it’s truly a different interpretation of Elmore Leonard’s short story which was published in Dime Western Magazine in 1953.
- Director James Mangold drew inspiration from 3:10 to Yuma in writing and directing his second feature, Cop Land (1997). “In fact,” says the director, “I named the main character, Sheriff Freddy Heflin, after Van Heflin, who played Dan Evans in the original film.”
- Russell Crowe is in American Gangster with Josh Brolin who is in Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon.
Rated R for violence and some language, 3:10 to Yuma definitely earns its rating in the violence category. Realistic and loud gunfights abound. They're not overly gory or bloody, but it's not exactly something to expose your 8-year-old to. If you can handle Tombstone, Open Range, etc. then you'll be fine with this. As for the language, some of it's a little rough, but I've definitely heard worse in PG-13 films. However, it's unfortunate that two "f" bombs are dropped along with 10+ G-d**ns.