' ' Cinema Romantico: 3:10 to Yuma

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

3:10 to Yuma

I always admire a movie that's aspiring for greatness. Even if the movie doesn't necessarily reach that goal, I still respect it. I certainly respect it more than a movie that may as well open with the director offering a disclaimer of, Hey, let's be honest, I'm just trying to make a cheap buck here. "3:10 to Yuma" is aspiring for greatness. The question then becomes, does it get there?

A remake of a western from the 50's which was itself based on an Elmore Leonard short story, "3:10 to Yuma" is the story of two men. Christian Bale is Dan, a northern Civil War vet who lost part of one leg and now is unsuccessfully attempting to carve out a life for his family as a rancher. Russell Crowe is Ben Wade, our rogue of a villain. Dan is on the verge of losing his ranch as the movie begins and sets out with his two sons to track down his lost cattle. They cross paths with Wade and his dangerous gang who have just robbed a stagecoach carrying money and weapons. Through an expected turn of events, Wade is captured and set to be taken to the 3:10 train bound for Yuma where he will be hanged. Dan offers to accompany the group set to take Wade to this train for the hefty sum of $200. This is his chance to set things right for he and his family. "For three years I've been asking God for a favor," he tells his wife, "and He ain't listenin'."

As nefarious Ben Wade, Crowe is good. Very good. The character slips and slides between being hideously evil and an intelligent, charming rogue. This type of bad guy can easily become a characature, jarringly swinging from the one personality trait to the other depending on which one the screenplay requires. But Crowe refuses to let this happen. Both sides of him seem to be existing at once. He is who he is.

(Russell Crowe can't seem to be mentioned anymore without being referred to as, say, a hothead, or a jackass. Maybe he is. I don't know. I don't care. The guy can act.)

Bale's turn is even better and works as the rock to ground the movie. At the start he needs to be seen simply as a desperate man. The stand he takes is born solely out of that desperation and as the movie progresses he comes to see what the stand he's taken truly means. Bale lets the transformation play out over the course of the whole film. Also good is Ben Foster as Wade's right-hand man, Charlie Prince. I will leave it you to determine exactly how much and in what way he thinks of Wade.

There is no question that "3:10 to Yuma" is a well-made, expertly paced action movie that brings something a little deeper to the mix and therefore packs more of a punch than a typical action film. However, as I stated, I definitely got the feeling that director James Mangold yearned for greatness. The film desired, I think, to be some sort of commentary on violence of the old west - an update on Clint Eastwood's brilliant "Unforgiven", if you will. On that level, I don't think it succeeds. Why? I always loved "Unforgiven" so much because every single bullet mattered. "3:10 to Yuma" takes some of its bullet more seriously than most movies but there are times when it is plagued by the question of how-cool-can-we-off-somebody? It doesn't cut quite as deeply as it wants.

But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be seen. It's a very good film, just not a great one. But because he even dares to aim for greatness, I applaud Mangold.


Anonymous said...

Nick is so lazy. why hasn't he updated this blog?

Wretched Genius said...

Hell, I had my jaw cut off once, and within 15 minutes I was back to hauling lumber for the city, and was damn grateful for the opportunity. Last I checked, Nick's surgery was nowhere near his hands or brain, so he has no excuse. And he's robbing us of blog entries typed while on heavy painkillers, which are always the most entertaining ones.

Selfish, I tells ya, just plain selfish.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the fact that science no longer needs to kill the patient to remove the appendicide muscle. So there's no excuse.

I, for one, am truly saddened.

Rory Larry said...

I hear Keith Olbermann got an appendectomy just because Nick got one.