The Hollywood Western ain’t dead yet. Director James Mangold done proved it!
Working from a short story written by Elmore Leonard (which was originally adapted in the 1957 film of the same name starring Glen Ford),
“3:10 to Yuma” is a compelling and entertaining film that succeeds because it doesn’t try to do too much.
Mangold and his screenwriters emphasize the characters above all else. Certainly there are gunfights and horse chases, but it’s all
secondary, especially when we reach the finale, to the concern for the players involved.
Christian Bale is Dan Evans, a way down on his luck farmer who can’t provide for his family, can’t win the respect of his son and is about to
lose his land to the railroads. Out of desperation he takes a job of escorting captured outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to, you guessed it,
the 3:10 train to Yuma Prison.
Bale is very good as the downtrodden Evans, but Crowe steals the show as the bad/badass Ben Wade. Most actors will tell you it’s more
fun to play a bad guy and Crowe looks like he is having a hell of a good time as his character physically and psychologically undoes
everyone around him.
The entire cast is excellent, however, with superb supporting work from Ben Foster as Wade’s number one scumbag.
Mangold keeps things moving fairly well and maintains a good balance of excitement and character drama. “3:10 to Yuma” is a story of
redemption and it pays off in the end because of fantastic performances and a solid script.
Unfortunately, the film does fall prey to some typical action movie clichés in the final act. The bad guys seem to conveniently lose their
accuracy during the final encounter and gunshots become less and less harmful as the film goes on.
But as I said before, by this point it’s all about the characters and the strong relationships that have been setup for the last hour and a half.
“3:10 to Yuma” is an entertaining Western revival with great performances and a strong story. If you have any interest in the genre, it is
* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Halsted Welles and Michael Brandt & Derek
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster,
Peter Fonda, Vinessa Shaw, Alan Tudyk, Gretchen Mol
Cinematography by: Phedon Papamichael
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Released: September 7, 2007; 117 Minutes