Review: 3:10 to Yuma
By Eric Hughes
September 10, 2007
Director James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma certainly has a lot of the formulaic elements to be considered a Western release: horses, gunfights, desert, saloons and an easy barmaid to boot. But in reality, it would be unreasonable, really, to sequester the film into such a strict and, let's face it, stereotypical boundary. Those expecting an everyday Western are in for a pleasant and unanticipated surprise. Mangold's 2007 remake of the now 50-year-old original of the same name is filled with personality, character and a pure, underlying respect formed between two highly improbable candidates.
Of Arizona's 19th century outlaws, Ben Wade is king, having masterminded more than 20 robberies on the Southern Railroad. Though his latest attack on an armored carriage appears successful, Wade (Russell Crowe) is confronted by down-and-out rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) and is later arrested by local railroad guards in town. When Evans voluntarily agrees to escort Wade to a prison train – the 3:10 to Yuma – it's that very journey that allows their unique, but mutual respect for one another to grow.
And Evans volunteers for any number of reasons. Indeed he could use the reward money. But more importantly, transporting the dangerous gunman could potentially earn Evans reverence from his 14-year-old son, who incessantly mocks his father and his supposed softness.
Between the 43-year-old Crowe and 33-year-old Bale, two fine and accomplished actors, it's Bale that decidedly takes the upper hand in this one.
Crowe, an Oscar winner and three-time nominee, is good, but not great. Simply put, he puts in the performance we've come to expect from Crowe. You need a villainous murderer, but with an offbeat emotional heart that has yet to be fully tapped into? Crowe's the man. And he's superb here, no question about it. It's just at times Crowe inadvertently appeared to be following a familiar formula that's been manifested in some of his prior film characters.
Unexpectedly, it's Bale who puts in the near-perfect performance as rancher Evans. Based almost exclusively on subtleties, both in voice and in action, Evans is a simple man sprouting from a simple family. He approaches people nonchalantly, and doesn't respond quickly, but rather straightforwardly only after he gives himself proper time to think.
The film was shot amongst the sweeping landscapes of New Mexico, providing just the right backdrop for 3:10 to Yuma's elaborate, noticeably orchestrated yet well-executed gunfights. The confrontations are beautiful, with great billowing dust clouds contrasting with striking blue skies. The violence is gory, but in no way gaudy; rowdy, but not markedly fantasy either.
The entire film, really, is shot with such crisp, clear color, too. The last time color was this blatantly good was in the 1999 film American Beauty. And that was eight years ago.