Saturday, October 8, 2011

3:10 To Yuma

3:10 To Yuma (2007)

The western was once a staple of cinema back in the 50's and 60's, what with classics like High Noon and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It disappeared for the longest time, but it is beginning to show a resurgence, starting with Unforgiven and culminating in the remake of True Grit. But in the middle lies the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, which is an excellent film and one of the best of its year, as well as one of the best remakes of all time (and so I hear, a remake that is better than the original). It has a complex and engaging story accompanied with impeccable acting and abundant atmosphere. This is the kind of western that makes me want to see more westerns, and one that you don't necessarily need to be a fan of the genre to enjoy.

One of two main characters in this movie is Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a poor rancher who has his horses stolen by the gang of the other main character (who will be mentioned later) in the beginning of the movie and is later enlisted to help deliver the criminal to the train station where he would take the titular 3:10 train to Yuma, where he would be hanged. Evans is a one-legged veteran of the Civil War, and he struggles to support his wife (Gretchen Mol) and his two sons (the elder being played by Logan Lerman and the younger being played by an unidentified child actor). His elder son William is an adventurous boy who dreams of being a cowboy and demands to come along with his father, and his younger son has tuberculosis, which is what ties the family to the failing ranch.

The other main character is Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), the criminal being transported to Yuma. Wade is the leader of a gang of criminals, and the gang (lead in Wade's absence by Charlie, played by Ben Foster) spends most of the movie tracking down Wade, leading to a violent confrontation at the train station. The rest of the movie is chronicling the journey of Evans and Wade (as well as the rest of the group taking him to Yuma which includes the likes of Peter Fonda and Kevin Durand). It also shows the interaction between Wade and Evans, which is fascinating in itself. Some emphasis is put on the strained relationship between Evans and his oldest son William, the latter noticing that the former is struggling to support the family. William also sees a sort of glamour in the renegade life of Wade and humanizes him despite Wade's attempts to convince William that he is an inhuman outlaw.

The interaction between Wade and Evans is the core of the movie, because when you look at it, the story is quite basic, and it's the characters that make it good. This is helped by the magnetic chemistry between Christian Bale and Russell Crowe and their excellent individual performances as Evans and Wade respectively. The character of Ben Wade is fantastic alone, and as opposed to being the cliched western bad guy, he is an interesting character. He doesn't really have any sympathetic qualities to him, but the writers don't try and make him sympathetic. After all, the writers of The Dark Knight did not try to make the Joker sympathetic, and he is arguably the greatest movie villain of all time. I'm not comparing Ben Wade to the Joker, but he has definitely earned his spot on the list of best villains of all time, due to the fantastic writing accompanied with the fantastic performance of Russell Crowe.

The other main characters, namely Evans and his son, are both fantastically written as well. They aren't quite as good as Russell Crowe, but Bale and Lerman give fantastic performances. Logan Lerman's performance serves as the linchpin of the movie in my opinion, the cherry on top of the wonderful ice cream sundae that is this movie. He is a credible actor, not just the teenybopper star that Percy Jackson has set him up to be. I am excited to see what projects he does in the future, and depending on the success of Percy Jackson (which to me looks like a second-rate Harry Potter but you never know), he could turn into one of Hollywood's next big thing. The chemistry between him and Bale is great, as they make a believable father-son duo, and the antagonistic chemistry between Bale and Crowe is electric as well. This trio of fantastic performances is easily the best thing of the movie, and I could even go so far as to say that Bale and Crowe deserved Oscar attention that they sadly did not get.

The film also has a fine supporting cast, which is lead by Ben Foster as the film's secondary antagonist. Foster is a fine character actor, and it shows through. I had only seen him as Angel in X-Men 3 prior to this, and he is certainly no angel in this one (sorry, I just had to do that) as he is much more violent than Wade. Wade could be violent, but he was more cold and calculating, whereas Charlie was the hair-trigger tempered second-in-command with undying loyalty to Wade. Evans' wife Alice was played by Gretchen Mol, and she gave a good performance as well, but she was only in the beginning of the movie, before they depart on the movie's mission. The actor who plays Evans' younger son is unknown to me, as he was not listed on the movie's wikipedia page, but he wasn't bad, at least by the lax standards of child actors. Peter Fonda is in this movie as well, and Luke Wilson comes in around the middle. They are both good, and that pretty much wraps up the film's good supporting cast. The film on a whole is peppered with fine performance, but none of them can live up to the excellent performance of Crowe.

There is also praise to be had for this movie's visuals as well. The film has the atmosphere of an old-style western despite being made only four years ago, and that definitely works in the film's favour. I loved the design of this movie, everything from the old barns to the city to the ornate (at least by 19th century standards) hotel room where they hide Wade so his gang won't find him. This film could have gotten praise for its art direction but it sadly didn't. In fact, that's a common theme for this movie. This film only got two Oscar nominations, one for Original Score (which it won and deserved) and Sound Mixing (which it lost to The Bourne Ultimatum). It deserved so much more than that though. Crowe and Bale deserved acting nominations (who would be up for which award is debatable) and the art direction definitely deserved a nomination. Not getting enough attention is what has partially placed this film into underrated territory.

So, I bet you're wondering why I gave the film an 80 and not a perfect score when I have been giving the film endless praise. Well, there are a few small problems I have with this movie. The first problem is its rather odd pacing. Some of it is a bit too fast, so fast that I had to rewind it to see what had happened. The rest of the film moved at fairly normal speed, so these moments stuck out even more and they kind of annoyed me. The beginning was also kind of abrupt. We are rushed into the action of Dan seeing his barn on fire, and we aren't even introduced to the characters yet, so it has little impact. However, these are very tiny flaws, and they do not majorly detract from the awesomeness that is this movie.

All in all, 3:10 to Yuma is an underrated remake, and one of the best westerns I have seen (but that's not saying much because I haven't seen too many westerns, something I would like to fix). It didn't get nearly as much attention as it should have, so it is with that I recommend 3:10 to Yuma to most everyone. Even those who don't really like westerns could find something to like about this movie, especially if you are a fan of Russell Crowe or Christian Bale. I took a chance on this movie, because I didn't know too much about it and I wasn't sure whether or not I'd like it. However, I ended up adoring it, and if you take a chance on it, you might too. I might also end up seeing the original someday, but in the meantime, I need to see a ton more westerns to be a better judge of them. Yuma has pretty much everything. It may not be perfect, but it has great acting, great visuals, and a great story, and it is well worth the watch.


1 comment:

  1. I'm a fan of Christian Bale, so I'd have a good chance of seeing this, great review