Friday, September 14, 2007

3:10 To Yuma

There are two kinds of westerns: High Noon style shootouts, and train robberies. 3:10 to Yuma is a third kind- one the combines the first two into an actual compelling story. I am not traditionally a big fan of westerns, but this movie shows how good this genre actually can be. Westerns don't necessarily need just gunfight (though this does have plenty of them), but can have well developed characters.

Russell Crowe plays Ben Wade, the leader of a notorious gang of bandits infamous for robbing stage coaches. Christian Bale plays Dan Evans, a good natured farmer trying to raise his family on a desolate farm, about to be pushed out by the railroads. How do these two paths cross? Wade gets captured celebrating his latest heist, and Evans volunteers (for a fee higher than a year's salary) to join a group escorting Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. This band of Wade, Evans, a railroad executive, a mercenary, a deputy, and a vet (he was the closest thing to a doctor they could find) set off on a race to get Wade to the train before his posse finds them.

Each character is unique and interesting, and it's a fabulous cast: Dallas Roberts, Peter Fonda, and Alan Tudyk. They all bring an original personality to the group. Nearly everyone at some point stands up and becomes a hero- including Evan's son (Logan Lerman). Even the bad guys in Wade's gang are all interesting- especially Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), who may have been my favorite character.

Bale's dead seriousness is juxtaposed perfectly against Crowe's smarmy, self assured egotism. With every sarcastic comment Evans gets more and more angry, and more more convicted to getting Wade on that train. Regardless of what happens, he will not fail at this- possibly because of his virtue, but more likely because of his son.

There are some problems that detracted from this movie for me. They didn't kill Wade right off the bat, because his gang would take revenge on the town. I couldn't figure out how sending him off to jail would be any different. Without giving away too much, the ending scene, as cool as it was, seemed to be a tad bit over the top. These weren't too distracting from the plot, however.

James Mangold managed to craft an expert Western that what both thrilling and powerful. In the end, however, it was the cast that brought it together. There was a perfect chemistry between Bale and Crowe, both of which somehow managed to inspire. Movies like this make me want to go back in time. The roles of a Spartan or a pirate that I would have loved to inherit have now been replaced by old west bandit.


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