James Mangold’s poetic 3:10 to
Yuma may be a signal of the second-coming of the American
Western. One could make the case that Kevin Costner’s 2003
effort, Open Range, paved the way, but that yippee-kay-yay-hollerin'
picture seems like a children’s film when compared to this
thoroughly uncompromising one. In a manner that audiences
haven’t seen since the work of Peckinpah, Mangold brings the
viewer into an elusive world where the men are strong and
committed to their cause, the women supportive, the heroes
noble, and the villains deceptively evil. Set amongst sweeping
vistas, 3:10 to Yuma is as naturally beautiful as its
action is unrelentingly violent. The picture achieves a quality
that few films do nowadays: it creates its own immersive realm
of existence. Because of this skillful characteristic, director
Mangold’s deft hand is able to keep a tight grasp over the
viewer’s emotions, thoroughly engrossing them in the
morality-driven events offered by his picture’s plot.
3:10 to Yuma
takes off as outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his team of
famous bandits rob a stagecoach in a small Arizonan town. Later
settling down to a drink in the local saloon to celebrate the
success of their crime, Wade finds himself enraptured by the
seductive bartender. He takes her upstairs to make love, which
leads to him overstaying his welcome in the town and getting
captured by local law-enforcement. Instead of killing Wade on
the spot, the group of enforcers decides to turn him into the
federal government. Because of this decision, they must rally a
band of men to dangerously escort him to a 3:10 train headed for
Yuma Federal Penitentiary. With the promise of a $200 payout and
the ability to rid himself of an existing grudge against Wade
for temporarily stealing his cattle motivating him, prominent
among these men is failed rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale).
The road to the train-stop proves grueling as Wade struggles
with his captors and his team of bandits continuously edges
closer to rescuing him, but Evans soon begins to protect the
mission not only as a means to make money and seek revenge, but
also as a moral crusade.
Mangold’s handsome sense of timing and knack for staging scenes,
Bale and Crowe steal the show in the lead roles, both fully
engrossed in their characters and reveling in the devious
interplay between them. Despite the fact that the movie
wonderfully takes to the old-fashioned conventions of the
Western, it proves truly memorable due to its ability to craft
two complex main characters under said conventions. Bale and
Crowe work to develop a strong degree of nuance in Wade and
Evans, never losing sight of the humanity of their characters
when pitting them in genre-typical good-versus-evil situations.
The same could be said of the whole of 3:10 to Yuma: it
offers a fresh and exciting take on an always-welcome formula.
Consumed by its richly conceived setting, this rugged and moving
film is one of the year’s best.