All Westerns are about the war between good and evil. And in the "good old days" it was pretty clear who were the good and who were the bad. But the best Westerns are when the black-and-white divisions are blurred and characters are portrayed as more realistic - people who sometimes do good and sometimes do bad - to varying degrees, of course.
3:10 to Yuma is a remake of the 1957 film of the same name. I haven’t seen the original so can’t comment on the relative quality (although others have said it improves on the original); but the contemporary version is a great movie with some very significant themes.
Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a rancher living on drought-stricken land outside the town of Bisbee with his wife and two boys. In the eyes of his eldest son, Dan is a weak man. Dan has a prosthetic leg after losing his own during the Civil War; he is in debt; his barn has been burnt down by the henchmen of a powerful neighbouring landowner who wants to force Dan of his land. His son can’t understand why he doesn’t go after those who have harmed him and use violence for violence. His father refuses.
The movie actually opens with a stagecoach robbery by the notorious Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang of murderers and thieves. Ben is caught and Dan, a witness to the robbery, ends up volunteering to escort Wade to the town of Contention where the 3:10 train (which has a prison cell on board) will transport Wade to Yuma for trial. The journey is fraught with dangers from Indians and Ben Wade’s highly devoted gang who want to rescue him before he arrives in Yuma.
But the greatest struggles are internal ones for Dan and his eldest son. What makes the story so interesting are these internal struggles going on in even the "evil" characters in the film. Russell Crowe is excellent as Ben Wade and portrays the nuances of character that make Wade a complex protaganist. I’m not really a Christian Bale fan, but he does a great job of Dan Evans - a man torn between his past, his values, and what his wife and children think of him.
3:10 to Yuma is often a very violent film - as one would expect from a modern Western. But the violence is a necessary counterpoint to the human conflicts that are going on within each person in the story.
Catch the 3:10 to Yuma - it will take you places that will have you thinking deeply about what is really important in relationships; what it means to be strong; the nature of respect; and subvert your stereotypes of good and evil.
My Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5)
’James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma restores the wounded heart of the Western and rescues it from the morass of pointless violence.’ - Roger Ebert/Chicago Sun-Times
’The remake adds 24 minutes and subtracts most of the suspense.’ - Stephen Hunter/Washington Post
Violence and some language