The traditional American Western has been largely out of favor. While there are exceptions to the rule from time to time, the genre (particularly ’50s style Westerns) is effectively dead.
So, does James Mangold’s “3:10 to Yuma” inject some vitality back into the Western? And is it a film that’s still enjoyable for those not that especially acquainted with the forgotten genre? On the whole, the answer to these questions is yes.
The film is a remake of an acclaimed 1957 film of the same title, and follows the plot of its predecessor relatively closely. It’s a simple story that’s filled with tension at every turn and complex characters that you can really sink your teeth into. Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a one-legged Civil War vet-turned rancher who finds himself in heavy debt due to Arizona droughts. At the start of the film he faces imminent foreclosure on his property, and consequently, doubt from his own family. An unlikely opportunity for both redemption and the sorely needed cash presents itself to Evans in the form of infamous outlaw, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). When Wade is captured following one of his gang’s vicious raids, Evans accepts the risky task of helping to escort Wade to a prison-bound train. The dangers are clear, with Wade’s entire gang still on the loose, and Wade himself being more than capable of doing what is necessary to escape his captors.
The stage is set for a morality play that allows for the protagonist and antagonist to get inside each other’s heads while still providing gun slinging thrills associated with Westerns. This is especially true in the rousing and cathartic finale. The direction is very proficient, and the action well staged, but the real weight of this production is carried on the shoulders of its stars, the pairing of Crowe and Bale proves to be the masterstroke that elevates “3:10 to Yuma” from 50’s Western nostalgia to pertinent contemporary filmmaking.