‘3:10 To Yuma’ raises moral issues in Old West
There’s something about the Old West, and the basic story of one man trying to abide by the laws of the land, but then realizing others are profiting at your expense to follow the rules. Before he was a “Gladiator” and a “Cinderella Man,” Crowe was gunslinger with a conscience in 1995’s “The Quick and the Dead.” It’s that element of “3:10 to Yuma” that is most interesting, especially when most westerns are all about the shoot-’em-up aspect, usually at the finale.
No, this movie addresses the duality of two men’s psyches — that is more piercing than mere bullets. And you could only pull it off by having actors who are at polar opposites when it comes to their background and character.
Arizona during the late 1800s, where the railroad can make or break a town by its mere existence, is the backdrop for struggling farmer and wounded Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale), who is trying to make a living for his family and is definitely a man of principle with ethics.
In the Old West, though, there is plenty of corruption and temptation to break the law, especially when you see the kind of conditions one must exist in. Russell Crowe plays Ben Wade, an outlaw making his living off of robbing others. Not just an ordinary outlaw, mind you, but one who believes he is in fact a living legend whose gang is loyal to a fault. The two distinctive individuals meet almost by accident, but when they do, that’s when the movie becomes really interesting.
“3:10 to Yuma” is a remake of the Glenn Ford, black-and-white classic bearing the same name released 50 years ago and directed by Delmer Daves. The 2007 version is directed by James Mangold (“Walk the Line”), who pays attention to detail in both the set design and in the way he develops the characters with his actors. While Evans represents the “good guy” here, his face mirrors that of a man straight out of The Great Depression, who lost his ranch from the drought, and must maintain enough dignity so that both his wife, Alice (Gretchen Mol), and older teenage son, Will (Logan Lerman), won’t think less of him for remaining in the confines of the law while still showing that honesty equals integrity, but deep down knows he is losing respect from those he cares most about.
Wade, on the other hand, has been a career criminal for so long he almost feels sorry for those trying to eek out a living the traditional way — that of hard work and being everything he isn’t.
Adding almost another lead weight around his sunken features, Evans has to deal with a corrupt deed holder who tries to drive Evans and his family off of their property. Evans catches a break when Wade is captured and Evans is paid $200 to escort the notorious outlaw to trial, taking the 3:10 train to Yuma (hence the title) to face the law. Well, that is unless Wade’s gang gets to them first.
Like most good villains, Russell Crowe takes the Wade character and makes it all his own. He turns him into a well-mannered and religious gentleman who is a contradiction of values, so that you wonder at times if Wade is being ironic or sincere. He and his gang have done a number on the Southern Pacific Railroad, making off with huge sums of money. File that away when you remember that Evans is battling those who want him gone because of the railroad. With Wade’s brilliant use of manipulation and Evans’ dilemma, it’s easy to think where one’s loyalty could wind up.
Think of it like going away to college for the first time and seeing if all that upbringing and morality instilled by your parents will take hold when other outside influences bombard you on an almost daily basis when they’re no longer around.
“3:10 to Yuma” is a very good piece of cinema and one that should get a decent buzz. With Christian Bale (his sequel to “Batman Begins” comes out next year in “The Dark Knight”) and Oscar winner Russell Crowe in the lead roles, “3:10 to Yuma” is a nice departure indeed, and makes you think what you would do given similar circumstances. Other notable actors include Peter Fonda as a veteran bounty hunter and Kevin Durand and Alan Tudyk.
— Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews on RSN.
Keepin’ it reel:
Now Playing: “3:10 to Yuma”
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Logan Lerman, Dallas Roberts, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Vinessa Shaw, Alan Tudyk, Luce Rains, Gretchen Mol, Lennie Loftin, Rio Alexander and Johnny Whitworth
Directed by: James Mangold
Rated: R for violence and some language
Running time: 117 minutes
Howie gives it: 4 out of 5 bagels