Review: 3:10 to Yuma
PLOT: When a rancher, left without a leg in the Civil War, begins to lose his battle to keep his land, he is offered a chance for some desperately needed money by helping bring a criminal to justice. The criminal in question makes the mistake of getting caught after a violent attack in a successful robbery. He is then taken into custody with plans to bring him to a train where he will be led to face his penalty. Along the way, both outlaw and rancher find reason and truth as they get closer to the 3:10 train to Yuma.
The prospect of putting two great actors together such as Christian Bale and Russell Crowe could be a very rewarding one. And James Mangold offers up a little bit more by remaking the 1957 classic, 3:10 TO YUMA. He creates a character driven western that is filled with wonderful performances that feel as fresh to the genre as THE UNFORGIVEN did back in the day, although not necessarily in that great of company. It also changes the rules by offering up a bad guy who is more than just a guy to make the good guy look good. Russell Crowe brings Ben Wade to life with his colorful dialogue and a vulnerable side that most would never see. As does Christian Bale as a rancher named Dan Evans whose only goal is to save his family from the rich and powerful who are planning to build railroad tracks across where his farm lies.
As with many westerns, the story is simple enough. When Dan Evans and his two children witness a robbery at the hands of Ben Wade, Ben lets him go, with only the need for his horses. When the outlaws leave, they also spare the life of a bounty hunter named Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda) hired to bring Ben Wade to justice. From the beginning we see that Wade is not just out for blood. He has killed and has no problems doing it, but there is a side to him that runs deeper than that. When Evans attempts to bring McElroy into town, he is met up with Grayson Butterfield (Dallas Roberts) who, along with the same men that are trying to drive Dan and family off of his land, bring McElroy to town to heal his wounds. In a series of events, Dan ends up with the task of getting Wade to the train that would take him to jail. He is offered a nice sum of money for his family, so along with a small group of men, the trek begins.
Christian Bale is wonderful here as the rancher who lost a leg years before and desperately attempts to keep his family with food on the table and a roof above their heads. His wife Alice (Gretchen Mol), supports him, but seems to find herself questioning his handling of his family duties. Much of this includes paying for doctors to help his son instead of paying off loans that could help him keep his land. Bale has a fantastic ability to completely disappear in each character he portrays. And this is no exception. His scarred relationship with his fourteen-year-old son William (Logan Lerman) is clear as the boy questions his fathers every move. This is a man who is beginning to lose his own personal battle and it's hard to imagine another actor that could capture this as beautifully as Christian.
The most pleasant surprise comes from Ben Foster as Charlie Prince, one of Wade's henchmen, who has an evil streak much deeper than Ben. His menacing performance is a fantastic departure from his work on "Six Feet Under" and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. He continues to prove he is very capable and looks pretty damn good next to Mr. Crowe. And to hold your own against a talent like Crowe is an impressive feat. There are several moments where he shines and he carries some of the humor in his menace. Good show on his partů very good show.
With a simple story and some great performances, I did feel that the film was a little less spectacular than it could have been with a stronger visual director. James Mangold is terrific when it comes to character which was evident in his wonderful Johnny Cash biopic WALK THE LINE. And he even creates some nice images, but that is not the power of the story. While focusing on performance he doesn't add anything on a visceral level. With Line, he had the music of Cash to really pull you in, but here, the gold is purely with great actors. Which is not a bad thing in any way. But with the stunning beauty of the old west, it would have been interesting to see more of those dusty streets and western towns with all the authenticity offered up with the costume and set design. It's a great looking film but could have had more of an impact with a stronger visual sense. Yet it is great to see this genre coming back into the cinema.
My rating 7.5/10 -- JimmyO