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Friday, April 13, 2012

Movie Review: 3:10 TO YUMA

3:10 TO YUMA
2007
R


"For a one-legged rancher, he was one tough son-of-a-bitch."
-- Charlie Prince


3:10 to Yuma is a 2007 western directed by James Mangold that serves as a remake of the 1957 film of the same name. When downtrodden rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) learns that he will lose his ranch within a week if he cannot pay off his debts, he agrees to assist in the escort of a captured robber named Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) in order to earn enough money to keep his family alive. The posse takes Wade across the Arizonan desert on their way to Contention, where he will be boarding the 3:10 train for Yuma Prison. Along the way, however, the strong-willed and incredibly violent Wade attempts to deter his captors both physically and psychologically, placing Evans in a battle of wills unlike he has ever experienced. To make matters worse, the rest of Wade's gang, led by Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), continually tries to retrieve their boss before he can be sent to the hangman's noose.

I hadn't seen this film in its entirety since I saw it during its initial theatrical release, but after seeing the DVD on sale recently, I knew I had to pick it up. I remembered it as being one of the better westerns I had seen in recent years, so to have the chance to sit down and watch it again was quite a treat. Now I know that the idea of a remake could potentially turn you away, but I think in this particular case, all the pieces fall into place, and we're given a rather fantastic film to enjoy.

To start, we're getting a great screenplay that offers both twists and turns as well as some great character development. One of the things I liked best was that the film wastes no time in introducing the characters and explaining their individual plights. From the very outset, we understand Dan Evans' reasoning behind joining the posse to escort Ben Wade. It's this well-crafted characterization that draws you into the story, and from there, we're able to see the pieces as they fall into place. The story itself is simple, but the well-rounded characters and the spot-on dialogue make it entirely enjoyable and even a tad bit profound from time to time. Ultimately, this film rests heavily on the laurels that are its screenplay.

That being said, a lot of credit has to be given to the film's cast. I was originally wowed by Crowe's performance as the central villain - or even as the anti-hero, depending on how you want to look at the film. There was something very subtle but brilliant about his portrayal of Ben Wade, and I was thoroughly surprised to see him excel in this particular genre. After this second viewing, however, I have to give a lot of credit to Bale as well, who manages to bring one of his more emotional performances to the screen. At a time when he was scoring as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolan's superhero franchise, it's a wonder to see him go in the opposite direction and bring out a fantastic character. We're also getting a slew of great supporting performances in the film, starting with Ben Foster who manages to steal the show as the true "villain." Also on the cast list are the great Peter Fonda playing a bounty hunter helping escort Wade to Contention, as well as Logan Lerman, who portrays Dan's hot-headed son William. Also be on the watch for familiar faces in Gretchen Mol, Alan Tudyk and Luke Wilson, who make small but important appearances.

At the end of the day, 3:10 to Yuma is both one of the better westerns released in recent years as well as one of the better remakes. By blending a great screenplay with a fantastic cast, the audience is getting a a film that fires on all cylinders. I do warn, however, that if you're not a fan of the western genre, then this may not really be for you. But for those of you who are, then chalk this one up as a must-see if you haven't already done so.



Movie Review Summary
Grade: A-
1.5 Thumbs Up

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