Saturday, September 15, 2007

3:10 To Yuma

Last month I told of how much I was anticipating James Mangold's remake of the classic 1957 western 3:10 To Yuma. Wow, was this film worth the wait.

This is a gorgeous piece of work, a classic western on its own, in the vein of The Unforgiven. Much more violent and dark than its 1957 predecessor, it is also more expansive in the story it tells, adding more action to the mix, yet retaining the core story of one desperate good man finding himself and one bad man finding his own good while waiting for the 3:10 train to Yuma.

Much of the story and some of dialog are exactly the same in both films. Legendary outlaw, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang have just robbed an armed stage coach killing everyone on board except Pinkerton guard, Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda), whom Wade's right hand man Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), shoots in the belly. Rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) and his two sons find McElroy and take him to Bisbee, Arizona to find a doctor. Wade is alone in town and while Dan distracts him, the sheriff is able to capture Wade without a single shot being fired.

Railroad representative Grayson Butterfield (Dallas Roberts) asks for paid volunteers to join McElroy's posse to take Wade to the train station in the town of Contention three days away. They must put Wade on the 3:10 train's prison car bound for Yuma. Dan Evans, desperately needing money to save his farm, agrees to help transport Wade to Contention joining Tucker (Kevin Durand) and Doc Potter (Alan Tudyk), the town's veterinarian in the posse. The film is race to meet the 3:10 while avoiding Wades ultra-violent gang. But deceptions fail and the odds move in the gangs favor. Time seems to be passing far too slowly as Evans and Wade await the 3:10 to Yuma.

In Bale and Crowe we have two of the best actors working today and they both shine in this film. Christian Bale in particular just disappears in the role of Dan Evans, a good man who has just been beaten down by the bad breaks he has endured. In the end the journey to the 3:10 to Yuma is more about being seen as a man than saving his ranch and Bale is just pure perfection in the role. When his wife asks him not to go along on the posse Dan responds, "If I don't go, we gotta pack up and leave. Now I'm tired, Alice. I'm tired of watching my boys go hungry. I'm tired of the way that they look at me. I'm tired of the way that you don't. "

Yeow, is that great writing and Bale delivers it with a brutal honesty that defines the character.

This cast is packed with amazing talent. Ben Foster, who I first noticed in Six Feet Under and have since watched blossom as ah actor in Hostage, Alpha Dog and X-Men: The Last Stand, steals almost every scene he is in as Charlie Prince. Also, Alan Tudyk ("Wash" on Firefly and "Steve the Pirate" in Dodgeball) has a fine turn as Doc Potter. We also have very good performances from Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol as Evan's hard-working wife, Logan Leman as Evan's oldest son William and Dallas Roberts as Butterfield.

Violent and raw though it is, 3:10 to Yuma is also beautifully photographed by Phedon Papamichael and has a wonderful, stirring score by Marco Beltrami. You get a sense of this from the trailer. Take a look and then get your ass to the theaters and see 3:10 to Yuma.

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