3:10 to Yuma is the new Western in town and that itself is worthy of discussion. It’s not really new, it’s a remake of the 1957 Glenn Ford film which was based on the short story by Elmore Leonard, and it will be aiming for modern audiences familiar with gunplay and gangstas, but perhaps confused by a world where horsepower was provided by horses.
Director James Mangold directs 3:10 to Yuma from an updated screenplay by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas. It soon becomes clear that the filmmakers are not reinventing the Western, nor paying homage to the Western, but simply making a great Western. And as you sense that confidence, 3:10 to Yuma unspools to become one of the best entertainments of the year.
Christian Bale plays Dan Evans, an injured Civil War veteran trying to scratch out a living for his family as an Arizona rancher. When we meet him, powerful local forces are attempting to burn him out to make way for their business interests. Correctly assessing the odds, Evans will not be fighting back with a gun, but instead hopes the coming rains and procreating cattle will work to his economic advantage. That’s not quite what we ask of our heroes, and Bale – an expert at tightly coiled characters – makes Dan Evans’ journey of nobility as suspenseful as it is preordained.
Meanwhile, Russell Crowe has field day as Ben Wade, a mythically fast and psychologically complex gunslinger who commands the most feared gang in the territory. When Wade lets his guard down one day – and we are encouraged to question whether by accident or not – he is apprehended by local law enforcement. All they need do now is get him on the train to Yuma to face the judge and the hangman’s noose. And that will require a sufficient posse to prevent Wade’s gang from staging a rescue. The job just so happens to pay enough to cover Dan Evans debts. And so Wade and Evans are thrown together to debate the soul of man between sporadic murders and ambushes.
3:10 to Yuma packs in several great performances and subplots, including Peter Fonda as a grizzled Pinkerton detective and Ben Foster as Wade’s drippingly evile right hand man, Charlie Prince. But the story is largely told in a short wordless scene in which, Logan Lerman, playing Dan Evans 14 year old son, gets his first glimpse of the legendary Ben Wade. And his entire face lights up as if to say now THAT is a man of action.
They say they don’t make Westerns anymore. But they just did. And in 3:10 to Yuma the moral wrestling match takes place in a wide open desert, where opportunity and violence always go hand in hand. Reminding us why the Western always was, and perhaps always will be, the archetypal American film.
© 2007 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 9/5/07
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
U.S. - 2007