Sunday, September 9, 2007

3:10 to Yuma

Movie name: 3:10 to Yuma
Year of release: 2007
Director: James Mangold
Stars: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Logan Lerman, Dallas Roberts, Alan Tudyk, Gretchen Moll, Vinessa Shaw
Genre: Western
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

“3:10 to Yuma” marks the return of the classic Western in a remake/adaptation that retains the original concepts of the genre. Unlike the revisionist tales that were Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves, James Mangold goes for a classic look in this tale of honor amongst men.

The remake of “3:10 to Yuma” had a difficult development process. Originally attached to Tom Cruise as a star, it ended up losing both its’ major star and the backing of a big studio. Luckily for director James Mangold, Russell Crowe and Lionsgate both came to the rescue. The director James Mangold has had a diversified career, where his films have ranged from the indie drama like “Cop Land” to bigger hits like “Walk the Line” and “Girl, Interrupted”.
“3:10 to Yuma” adapted from a short story by Elmore Leonard (who was also behind the films “Get Shorty” directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and “Jackie Brown” directed by Quentin Tarantino, to name but a few), was originally directed by Delmer Daves in 1957 with Glenn Ford and Van Hefflin (in the roles now played by Russell Crowe and Christian Bale). The 2007 remake stays very true to the original spirit of the western with the added bonus that comes in the shape of the wonderful performances from the cast.
The film starts by introducing us to Ben Wade and his gang – they are responsible for stealing a considerable amount of money and causing a substantial body count on their enterprises. During their latest robbery they cross paths with Dan Evans a retired military man, now a farmer going through a rough moment in his life (caused by insufficient funds and the proximity of the train and the value of the land). Through a series of circumstances, they cross paths again once Ben Wade is captured. Eyeing a reward that comes attached with the delivery of Wade to the train “3:10 to Yuma”, that will lead him to jail and face trial, Dan Evans becomes part of a group destined to make the drop off of Ben Wade, all the while his gang sticks close, ready to make their move and release their leader.
What is a rather simple premise of a film turns out to be a dramatic walk for two men who are apparently so different but who learn to respect each other and see beyond what the surfaces are. If Ben Wade comes across as a cold, charming and ruthless killer, he progressively shows a side that is intelligent, compassionate and moral. Dan Evans initially reviled by his teenage son, earns his respect through the odyssey that is bringing Ben to the train – his hardship, effort and morals are brought forth and show an honest yet flawed man, totally devoted to his wife and family. These apparently and seemingly at odds men reach a point of understanding and of balance by the epilogue of the film – the climax is both exciting for the action and set piece that James Mangold shoots, but also because the characters find their true selves – their journey is complete.
The film boasts terrific performances from the cast – this is what truly elevates it beyond what would be otherwise a conventional film (“Young Guns” springs to mind when you think of conventional). Russell Crowe is terrific, creating a menacing and seductive character – his Ben Wade is amoral but also a man of great intelligence and turns out, compassion. His performance is nuanced and truly fantastic. Christian Bale once again disappears behind a man that has seen and experienced plenty – his eyes express pain and disappointment for how his life has turned out. It’s a great character for Bale who seems to numb himself into the figure of the broken Dan. All the supporting cast does a great job, with special highlights for the wonderful Ben Foster (best known for his performance as “Russell” in HBO’s “Six Feet Under”) as the ambiguous and cold killer Charlie Prince, Logan Lerman as William Evans, the young and rebellious son of Dan Evans trying to stand his ground and become the man he doesn’t see in his father (Lerman was in “The Number 23” earlier this year) and the charismatic Peter Fonda as Byron McElroy, the old and experienced bounty hunter with a past of his own.
If the Western doesn’t seem to be alive and kicking as it once was, this film proves that there is still plenty to add. The revisionist style packs a lot of punch and all the performances make this film memorable and worth seeing.