Yippie ki yay, cowfolk! Saddle up your horse, throw on your 10 gallon hat, and get ready for some serious cowboy cops and robbers action in this western/adventure staring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale and directed by James Mangold. This movie is also a remake of the 1957 version which starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin.
This movie takes place in the very early days of America, not long after the Civil War. Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a farmer who is a bit hard up for cash, sees his barn burned down by railroad-employed bullies who want to take his land. He heads into town with his sons to take up the issue with law enforcement and the railroad company and happens to run into the infamous Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), a ruthless, vicious robber and murderer, and his gang of thugs who have just robbed a stagecoach owned by the railroad company. Instead of killing the three of them, Wade lets them go, but takes their horses to make sure that they do not run ahead and tattle on Wade’s gang about the robbery. The boys turn around and go home, but Dan continues into town. He again runs into Wade and this time gets revenge when he is able to distract him long enough for the railroad officials and law enforcement to take him into custody. Several men, including Dan Evans, then agree to escort Wade to Contention, where he will board the 3:10 train to Yuma to be tried and hanged. The money that will be paid to the volunteers is of great importance Dan Evans, who plans to pay off debts to the bullies who burned down his barn. Evan’s son later joins the group and idolizes Wade, the popular outlaw. As the group makes their way to Contention, they acknowledge that Wade’s brutal crew is hot on their trail. Eventually, they become surrounded and outnumbered in Contention and Dan struggles with the conflict of making a decision that is right and honorable in front of his son, or saving his own life.
The setting and background in this movie is incredibly stunning. New Mexico provides a beautiful background to shoot a western. For most of the movie, you see only the rugged mountains and western deserts. The small towns in the movie are quaint and suitable for what you would think of for an 1800’s town. I love that this movie was not “Hollywood-ized” with tons of crazy special effects. With all the lure of modern technology and special effects abilities in current movies, making a western in the modern age could be made inappropriate for the time period that the movie is trying to capture. This movie stays away from anything too brash and showy, and allows the scenery and simplicity of the West shine through.
The complexity and deepness of the two main characters, Bale and Crowe, is invigorating and enchanting. Bale’s character, Dan Evans, is a war veteran with part of his leg amputated. He feels shame and humiliation and wants to do something to make his family proud, especially his sons. His determination and perseverance make him an absolute treat to watch in this movie. Crowe’s character, Ben Wade, is obviously very intelligent and has good insight into human behavior. He is always analyzing the behavior of others, especially his captors, and knows exactly how to push peoples’ buttons. Throughout the movie, we are led to believe that Ben cares about no one but himself. Toward the end, we are able to see that Ben may not be so cold-hearted after all and could have the capacity to be a little noble himself.
I was a little skeptical about this movie before watching it. I have never watched a western all the way through to the end. I am usually bored to tears after the first ten minutes; however, I was absolutely enthralled with 3:10 to Yuma. The script was utterly amazing and kept my attention the entire time. Usually, I would be discontent with the way this movie ended, but since we get to see Russell Crowe’s character shed some of that rough, bad-boy persona, I didn’t mind it much. The only thing in this movie that bothered me was the means of transporting Ben Wade to Contention. He was on his own horse and the men were obviously not going to kill him because they wouldn’t get paid if they did. If he were the infamous cowboy that everyone said he was, why didn’t he just run away? This issue seemed a little unrealistic to me, but overall the movie was wonderful and definitely one I will watch again.