DVD review: "3:10 to Yuma"
Published: Monday, February 4, 2008 - 2:32am
Starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Gretchen Mol
Released: Jan. 8, 2008 (DVD);
Sept. 7, 2007 (theaters)
IN THE 21st century, Western films are declining. Many say that there haven’t been any outstanding Westerns released since “Unforgiven” in 1992.
However, “3:10 to Yuma” — now out on DVD — is thrilling, presents realistic settings, and Russell Crowe and Christian Bale both do an excellent job portraying their characters. As Uni history teacher Bill Sutton would put it: “One of the best Western films I have seen in my life.”
Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard and a remake of a 1957 movie with the same name, the new “3:10 to Yuma,” set in the post-Civil War era, focuses on the journey of two characters: the outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) and a poor, honest, hard-working rancher named Dan Evans (Bale).
Evans, who is a married man and has two kids, is a failure. Despite being a diligent man and a caring father, he is seriously in debt and faces many problems.
A man who owns Evans’ land burns his barn, hoping to drive him out so a railroad can be constructed. Evans is in debt, droughts have ruined his farming season, he is one-legged, and his teenage son doesn’t have much respect for him.
On the other hand, the outlaw Wade is the complete opposite of Evans in both personality and status. Rotten as hell and a cold-hearted murderer, Wade is the boss of a ruthless gang and makes his money by robbing stagecoaches, banks, and anything that he can really get his hands on.
He has killed more than 100 people, ruined countless families, and feels no remorse for his actions. In one scene we see him kill one of his own gang members for recklessness. Although Wade is full of bad stuff, he is a very talented and intelligent man. A skilled artist and good at talk, Wade is a man who you both hate and admire.
While on his way to Bisbee, Ariz., Wade’s gang comes across a stagecoach filled with railroad money. Even though it is guarded by Pinkerton bounty hunters, Wade strategically places his men in ambush, allowing his gang to lay low the guards.
After acquiring hundreds of dollars stashed in the stagecoach, Wade and his gang soon arrive at Bisbee. Unfortunately for Wade, he ends up getting caught, and a posse immediately gathers to escort him to the town of Contention, where he will be taken on board the 3:10 to Yuma train. Once in Yuma, Wade will be quickly tried and hanged.
Among the crew are an animal doctor, a pompous young man, an ex-Indian fighter, and the Southern Pacific railroad man. As well, Evans who is desperately in need of money signs up for a $200 contract.
Along the way to Contention, the posse has to deal with perilous obstacles ranging from Evans' rebellious teenage son, hostile Apache Indians, corrupted railroad men, and the tenacious, crafty Wade, who is able to assassinate two of the members.
In addition, Wade’s gang, now led by the insane but loyal Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), pursues the posse to save their boss.
In the middle of all this, an unexpected bond between Evans and Wade grows. Both are contemptuous of each other’s choices, but considerate of each other’s decisions. Wade is thoroughly impressed by the decency in Evans.
Wade admires Evans’ determination to do his duty. Evans never thinks of abandoning the group, even when the posse begins taking heavy casualties. Evans is always on guard and never gives up. When the posse members arrive at Contention, Wade’s gang ambushes them. In a hopeless situation, Evans is the only one who continues to escort Wade to the train.
While Wade’s reverence for Evans grows, Evans is at the same time amazed by Wade’s shrewdness and his ever-lasting determination to escape. If at any moment Wade is not guarded, something bad will happen.
On their journey to Contention, Wade is able to kill two of the five posse members, stabbing the pompous young man in his sleep with a fork and killing the ex-Indian fighter by throwing him off his horse. Evans is disgusted by how Wade can just murder people with no remorse, but acknowledges that Wade won’t kill him.
The relationship between the rancher and the outlaw is played out excellently by Bale and Crowe. The two actors never slip, with Bale making his serious character interesting and Crowe being able to switch constantly between being humorous, sly, and deadly.
Unfortunately, this movie is not perfect. The film’s ending, even though it follows the original 1957 movie, is a twist that doesn’t quite work. Instead, the ending is just extremely abrupt, and leaves the audience to wonder what just happened.
Despite a disappointing ending, “3:10 to Yuma” is a must-watch for those who enjoy Western films, and it shows that Westerns still have lots of potential.
“3:10 to Yuma” is available on DVD from Lions Gate Entertainment.
“3:10 TO YUMA” AT A GLANCE
- Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Gretchen Mol
- Directed by: James Mangold
- Written by: Halsted Welles (screenplay), Michael Brandt (screenplay), Derek Haas (screenplay); based on a short story by Elmore Leonard
- Rated:R for language and violence
- Runtime: 122 min.
- Release date: Jan. 8, 2008 (DVD); Sept. 7, 2007 (theaters)
- Summary: Down-on-his-luck rancher Dan Evans agrees to escort captured outlaw Ben Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma, where he will stand trial for his crimes. But getting there is easier said than done.
- External sites: IMDb entry, official site
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