Off The Shelf: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Here we have a film that has been on my watchlist for years and years, but as with many films that pass us by, I kept telling myself, “eh not right now”. And it wasn’t until I was cruising through Amazon Prime Instant Video to find something to occupy my time for a long train ride that it occurred to me that I could finally cross this title off. I was finally in the right mood. And I was rewarded handsomely.
3:10 To Yuma is a remake of a film from 1957 (also on my shelf, I will perhaps get to it one day). I was attracted to this version originally after having (as I’m sure most young actors have) a severe obsession with Christian Bale in High school. But now all these years down the road, I have grown such a fondness for Ben Foster, Russell Crowe, Peter Fonda, and director James Mangold, so much so that this film has always remained on the forefront of my mind. Despite high expectations, this film managed to deliver an exceptional product. In this 1800’s set Western, Bale plays Dan Evans, a rancher maimed from the war who has been struggling to support his wife and two sons. When Evans stumbles across outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) and sees an opportunity to reclaim his confidence and earn a healthy wage, he agrees to assist in transporting Wade cross country to put him on a train to Yuma in the hopes that the criminal can be locked up for good. The performances given, particularly by the veterans Bale and Crowe, are picture perfect, to the point where each is topping the other from scene to scene. With Bale, the struggle is felt far beyond the rationality of a man struggling to keep his land, and instead we see a desperate attempt for a man to reinstate his pride. With Crowe, we see a man at the absolute height of his intelligence fighting to find excitement in the unpredictable; a masterful charmer that continually makes the audience forget how dangerous he truly is. And by god is he dangerous. Mangold manages to capture the perfect amount of brutality in this wild western where it feels gnarly and gritty while never crossing the boundary into becoming gratuitous. It makes sense that Mangold followed up with films like Wolverine and Logan (both of which are deserving of high praise particularly in terms of the superhero genre). The screenplay maneuvers through the intricacies of these characters so beautifully that it feels almost poetic. There are times when the lines are blurred between heroes and villains in ways that make the audience uncertain of who to root for. Often times character motivations are left unexplained, and while this may be a criticism for some, I found myself thankful that this movie treated its audience as if it was intelligent enough to really examine the characters and decide for themselves how they felt about the hard decisions being made. In line with this, this movie features one of my favorite film endings I’ve seen in years, culminating to the perfect gratifying conclusion that felt both inspiring and unjust.
In terms of drawbacks, I have very few. For one thing, I feel that this film has a few side plots that lead on a road to nowhere. One in particular involving Luke Wilson feels like it’s bridging into a different film. Peter Fonda, as good as he is in the film, doesn’t feel like his character is indispensable to the narrative. When the movie rolls with exploring its two leads, and simply allowing its two leads to showcase their immense talents, it is at its strongest. I’d also mention that the movie doesn’t truly hook right out the gate. I’d wager that it wasn’t until roughly the 20 minute mark when the plot actually kicks in did I become fully invested in the story. I’d mostly attribute this to a stage coach sequence that, while not void of thrilling moments, ate up too much screen time in the first act without really involving the characters I was interested in at the time all that much.
All in all this film is a beautiful modern adaption of a classic western story, and deserves to be on your shelf as well as mine. 9.5/10
Gianni Damaia - Host of The Bad Movies Podcast