Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale
Director: James Mangold
Producer: Stuart M. Besser, Ryan Kavanaugh, Cathy Konrad, Lynwood Spinks
Release Date: September 7, 2007
Running time: 117 min
MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: Lions Gate Entertainment
“You all spared no expense this time, Byron. I gotta say, though, it's probably cheaper just to let me rob the damn thing.”
- Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma
“If it's between you and some poor guy whose wife you're gonna make a widow... brother, you are going down.”
- Vincent Hanna in Heat
A remake of the 1957 film of the same name adapted from a short story by Elmore Leonard.
I don’t see that many Westerns. When you say it out loud it’s kind of appalling considering most of the ones I have seen (and my experience is embarrassingly limited) are generally pretty good. They appeal because of basic thematic fundamentals: enforcement of the law, honor and cowardice, and good old fashion good guys vs. bad guys. The good ones are more than just cowboys and Indians; they are studies in character that take place in a simpler time. Well, maybe not simpler, but definitely a time that is more uniquely American than any other film genre.
Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a rancher and veteran of the Civil War who is down on his luck. He lost his leg in the war and his barn has just been burned down in the middle of the night. He is living with the fear his sons don’t respect him and that he is not providing for his family. Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is the leader of a gang with over twenty robberies on the Southern Pacific Railroad on his resume. He has charisma and intellect beyond the borders of his gang and his evil actions. Yet, you still want to see him get his just dues.
Evans and his boys stumble on a robbery in progress by Wade and his gang. Wade takes their horses but lets them go. Later in town, Evans crosses paths with Wade again and stalls him long enough for him to be arrested. He agrees to help escort Wade to prison train in Contention (the 3:10 to Yuma) for desperately needed reward money. In its most basic form, the plot of the movie is simple; get a man to the train on time. But the plot is not what drives this movie. It is the interaction between Wade and Evans while they are on the journey to Contention.
Remember the scene in Heat where DeNiro and Pacino discuss the discipline of their chosen professions and reflect on their ultimate intentions while having coffee? Of course you do. It is a great movie and that scene stays with you long after you finish watching it. Although they come from the opposite sides of the law, they are civilized amidst the chaos that has, and is about to ensue. They go so far as to kindly let the other know that when push comes to shove, civilized or not, neither of them will hesitate to let instinct take over and do what they think has to be done.
This movie is a lot like that scene. It is essentially a long conversation between two men who seem to exist only in each others universe. Even though they will ultimately both do what they have to in order to serve their own interests, they will be civilized about it, even if they are pushed to violence. You get the feeling that if Wade has to be sent to prison, there is no one else he would rather accompany him on his journey than Evans. They interact with each other as if no one else is around, and the movie is all the better for it. The whole movie we are lead to believe that Evans is only doing this for the reward money, but during the final 20 minutes the movie comes full circle because we come to the realization of his true motivations at the precise moment that he does, even if Wade knew it all along.
3:10 to Yuma is a great movie that tells a simple story that flourishes from the performances of Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, both as individual performances and the way their characters interact. Even though both men keep their own agendas in play, there is a civility in their actions that forges a stronger connection and makes the movie all the better for it.
And there’s the rub.
*** 1/2 out of ****