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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't Miss the 3:10 to Yuma

[In a good mood after True Grit, but I wont write about that till later, so I've revisited my thoughts on another favorite, recent western.]

3:10 to Yuma = 5 out of 5

Ben Wade: So, boys - where we headed?
Byron McElroy: Taking you to the 3:10 to Yuma day after tomorrow.
Tucker: Should'nt've told him that.
Ben Wade: Relax, friend. Now if we get separated, I'll know where to meet up.
While I was watching this movie, I was thinking about how I would rate it when I got home.  I was going high, thinking 4 and 1/2, but then wondered why I would stop there.  At that point I realized that I had no problem with anything I saw in this movie.  I was trying to nitpick for no reason, but just gave up because I didn't need to; the filick's really good.  This is a great western, improving upon the original, featuring great performances by the actors, a wonderful western feel, and plenty of other elements that get me to watch this flick over and over.

The story involves an infamous outlaw, Ben Wade, played by Russel Crowe. He had just robbed an armored stage coach, and shortly after has been caught.  Now the task is at hand for him to be escorted to the 3:10 train to Yuma, in another town, where he will be brought to trial.
Butterfield: Twenty-two robberies, over four hundred thousand dollars in losses.
Ben Wade: Ya'll notice he didn't mention any of the lives I've taken?
Enter Dan Evans, played by Christian Bale. He is a rancher, a former civil war soldier, who now only has one foot. He lives an honest life with his family, but has fallen on hard times.  He is down to nothing, but gets the chance to help transport Wade in an effort to make a good amount of money.  While this journey is taking place, Wade's right hand man, a dedicated follower of his, Charlie played by Ben Foster, leads his own brutal journey to catch up to Wade and free him.  During the journey, the crew transporting Wade must deal with his constant taunting and escape attempts.  Dan must also prove (especially since his son has forced his way to be a part of the trip) that an honest man can remain honest and be successful doing the right thing.

Everything comes together so well here. Crowe and Bale have such great characters to play off one another. While Wade is a likable yet seemingly evil person, who takes what he wants, Dan is basically a loser, with almost nothing left to hang onto except his family, where even his oldest son has little respect for him.  It is truly a battle between performances. Crowe's role is showier, while Bale has to play the straight man role, which requires a lot more subtlety.


The supporting cast is excellent. Ben Foster has an evilness about him, which shows a nasty side that still manages to give off a dog-like quality, when considering his loyalty to Wade.  He tries to follow in what he thinks is Wade's way of living, but there is a clear difference. Peter Fonda should have made more of a career as a western star, as he grizzles his way through a fun supporting turn. A few more recognizable faces including Alan Tudyk, Gretchen Mol, and even Luke Wilson, fill out the rest of the cast.

The direction is very well handled.  James Mangold, who has moved through a number of different genres, manages to take what he considers a favorite film of his, and do great justice to the material.  It's also incredibly watchable.  This is about a two hour movie, that moves along at a great pace, especially for a western, a genre that prides itself on build up.  Good score and cinematography as well, capturing the look of the dry western plains, other varied terrains, along with the progressing town settings, while also playing to the beats of the characters.

The story itself is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, giving some lively dialog throughout, and not just purely expository character motivations.  I find it worth noting, basically because Leonard-styled dialogue always pleases me and having it handled in a western setting is a fun notion.



Then there are some great action sequences throughout this film as well. This includes the standard, but awesome finale, where bullets fly all over, coming close to matching the greatness that is the shoot out in Open Range.  Other moments involving the use of dynamite, some tense face-offs, etc. are also nicely shot and work well for the western as a genre.

Overall, I was fully entertained by this movie. I can't say that everyone will be as fully immersed in the film as I was, but I found nothing to complain about and was completely drawn into this movie.  I have revisited the film many times, and I always enjoy watching it.  The quality of the filmmaking, the lead performances, and the general forward momentum that this film holds onto, all help in letting me love this movie.

Dan Evans: Just remember, it's your old man that hauled Ben Wade to that station... when nobody else would.

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