Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale
Director: James Mangold
Mood: If you want to be left unable to even name your mood after watching a movie so intense and full of so many emotions that it defies categorization.
Is it wrong to call 3:10 to Yuma a feel-good movie? Because I felt SO F*CKING SATISFIED at the end.
This is another popular Western that, for some reason, I ignored for over a decade. It’s a remake of the 1957 film of the same title, based on a short story by Elmore Leonard.
When I see a really bad Western, I watch it again almost right away before writing a review because I have to be sure it truly sucked. But I watched 3:10 to Yuma twice in a row because I wanted to do it justice – the first viewing actually left me speechless.
3:10 to Yuma is pretty straightforward. It’s one man’s story of saving his ranch and proving his worth to both himself and his teenage son. That man is Dan Evans (Christian Bale). It’s also a fascinating character study of a notorious outlaw with intriguing motivations. That man is Ben Wade (Russell Crowe).
Evans’ ranch has suffered a drought, then a barn fire set by the jerk who owns his land and wants him out to grab railroad dollars. His teenage son William (Logan Lerman) thinks he’s a useless coward, and his wife doesn’t seem to be too impressed with him either. Needless to say, Evans is pretty desperate. There’s a LOT of family tension.
Evans ends up in the right place at the right time to help the railroad men capture Wade, and takes a paid position on the posse tasked with delivering Wade to Contention. There, he’ll be put on the 3:10 train to Yuma Territorial Prison in Arizona (and now the title makes sense).
3:10 to Yuma catapults you straight into nail-biting intensity, and it never slows down. I spent the entire first time I watched it feeling totally depressed and like everything is hopeless, because you just know there’s no way anyone would survive against Wade’s posse.
The action is brilliantly shot. It’s not overly produced to the point where it feels distractingly modern. Instead, it’s just mercilessly brutal to the point where you want to look away but you absolutely can’t. Even in its quiet moments, the tension is insane.
Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are two really great f*cking actors. I’m not a diehard fan of either, but they’re arguably some of the strongest out there. And both of them delivered powerful performances.
I’m not even sure how to describe Bale’s Dan Evans. It’s like seriously repressed emotion broiling under a stoic, by-the-books exterior. You know there’s a deep story, and you’re hanging off his every word and expression, looking for hints.
Crowe’s Ben Wade is the opposite – totally cavalier about cold-blooded killing, yet gentlemanly and polite. He’s the scariest kind of bad guy because he’s so charming and calm; you can’t help but like him even though you know he’s on no side but his own. Crowe managed to evoke both a commanding outlaw leader, and a respectful, observant artist. It’s baffling, and I’m here for it.
I don’t want to talk about Ben Foster as Charlie Prince, but I have no choice because he was such a huge part of the story. Ben Foster creeps me the f*ck out, in every movie. He’s GOOD at being the horrible character that you really want to see killed. His eyes look fully crazy, like the kind of crazy that has had too many concussions and randomly wakes up surrounded by dead bodies, covered in blood.
Foster would be the perfect choice to play Quentin Ross if they ever make The Winter Family into a movie.
There’s a lot of talent in the supporting cast. Peter Fonda and Alan Tudyk are on point. Luke Wilson is surprisingly good in his brief scenes. I had a moment when I recognized Vinessa Shaw, a saloon woman, from Hocus Pocus. And then you have Luce Rains, who has done SO MANY WESTERNS, and Forrest Fyre.
Let that sit for a minute – this movie features guys named Luce Rains and Forrest Fyre.
I have no criticisms of 3:10 to Yuma. None. The makeup and costuming are exactly what I want from a Western; everything feels accurate for the time and place. The cinematography is fantastic, with tons of action but not so much that it feels like a Michael Bay movie.
And the best part is the story. It has such strong underlying themes about justice, respect, and (this sounds so cliché) what it means to be a man. You come away from it thinking shit, sons need to stop expecting their dads to represent a specific kind of ‘man’. Men need to be kind to themselves because their best is good enough.
It’s a f*cking badass action movie, yet it also gives me all the feels. And not only does Christian Bale have a solid moustache, but almost all of the dudes have great facial hair. It’s a total win.