James Mangold (who was last seen behind the camera for his award-winning Walk the Line) brings us 3:10 to Yuma, a 2007 Western film that is a remake of the popular 1957 film of the same title.
Set in the Old West, the story introduces us to Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), a gun-slinging bad man whose gang robs a heavily defended stagecoach and kills all but one of the agents employed to safeguard its valuable cargo. When Wade is later captured in a small Arizona town, volunteers are asked for to escort the bandit to the train station in the town of Contention – some three days ride away – where he will board the 3:10 train for the courthouse in Yuma.
Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a poor farmer (and civil war veteran with only one leg) who desperately needs the money offered to escort Wade in order to save the family farm. Thus fate throws the two vastly different men together and as Evans and a few cohorts set off on the long ride to take Wade to justice, a battle of nerves between the two quickly develops.
Matters are complicated by the fact that Wade’s violent gang evaded the capture, meaning that they are out now in hot pursuit of the escort, and between Wade’s sadistic actions and their dogged determination to free their leader, Evans and the rest of escort group soon find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.
But come Hell or high water, Evan must earn that money – and prove to his hot-headed teenage son that his dad is not the one-legged loser that he continues to make him out to be. As the journey nears its climax, the battles become intense and it will soon erupt in an all out explosive battle – in the town of Contention!
After watching this movie, one can’t help but walk away with glowing admiration for both Crowe and Bale as actors, both of whom carried off their roles with such perfection and strength of performance that really, the movie would have been left rather dead in the road without them. The other actors in the movie pulled off their roles with equal applaud, and if there is one thing to be said for this movie, the casting for most of the characters couldn’t have been more dead accurate if they tried. Well, apart from Luke Wilson maybe – he looks kind of too stupid to make for a real, hardened cowboy in my books.
However, perhaps that is also the biggest problem with the movie. Because Crowe and Bale are so powerful in their roles and because they are the two main protagonists in the story on opposite sides of the law, the movie kind of loses what it is trying to sell us, mainly because we are forced to divide our attention equally between these two prominent actors. Sure, they end up forming some kind of ‘bond’ towards the latter stages of the film and the reasons for the way they act are laid bare before us, but by then it really feels just a little too late.
The story itself is a fairly simple one, though Elmore Leonard tried his best to twist it up a little by throwing in a few twists and turns, like Dan’s one leg and Wade’s penchant for drawing pretty pictures. However, despite the general simplicity of the story, the film really is exceptionally well made, with Mangold really nailing the look and feel of a Western down to perfection. The classic dusty Western backdrops, the big six-shooter gun battles and just the general …feel’ of a cowboy movie, they’re all here – with a vengeance. Which is particularly nice when you think about it and realise the Western genre is just about dead and buried in today’s cinematic releases.
Honestly, I can’t really go on admiring the movies beautiful camerawork, atmospheric and very well produced orchestral score, brilliant choreography and great action sequences, because truly, this is a well made film. A very well made film.
Actually I thought that maybe I should just say something about the gun battle scenes. Six shooter battles have never been done this gorgeously before. The weapons, bullet holes and impact force seem to mimic what one would expect from the era’s weaponry just right and although fierce, bloody and violent, you never feel as if you are watching a Tokyo-action flick gone out of control. Very pleasing to experience this level of ‘realism’ for a change.
But, and this is a big but, I walked out of the movie feeling quite unmoved, almost as if I’d just been subjected to what felt like a very long waste of my time. Firstly, the movie’s pacing is ever so slightly off. The movie starts off a little too slowly, only really gaining impetuous towards the end of the story and this hurts the experience slightly. Secondly, because the story paints pictures of both Wade and Evans and because the two actors almost threaten to overpower one another’s presence, everything seems to cancel out and you end up not caring about either one of the characters. So no emotional connection to the movie – which is a major sore point to any movie’s acceptance. Lastly, the ending ends up by rather contrived, and perhaps this is due to Leonard trying to throw a little twist in the tail for us, but honestly you just can’t watch it and find it believable. So the ending, although it does the best to try and evoke some emotion from you, comes across as being so unlikely that it completely loses any punch Mangold was hoping it might have. All these factor combine together to unfortunately turn what could have been a very good movie into more of an average experience than what it should be.
It really is a pity to say this, but although this movie has been exceptionally crafted, it ends up being a very, very average movie, probably only of any worth to fans of the Westerns genre in general. Watch it if you like seeing either Christian Bale or Russell Crowe in action, or if you perhaps want something different from what you normally see at the cinema, but otherwise, rather wait for the DVD release instead.
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3:10_to_Yuma_%282007_film%29