Over the past few months I have seen quite a few movies, both in the theatre and in the comfort of my home.
One film I have now seen twice, in theatre and at home, is the remake of an old western, “3:10 to Yuma”.
Along with many of you, I have not seen the original, and I must admit to feeling a little tired of all the remakes, sequels, prequels and run-on movies that are currently being made. This past summer it seemed that every big movie out there was unoriginal or just a grab at more money from an audience who appreciated the first flick, but cann’t stomach the repeats.
I even had not intended to go and see 3:10 in the theatre, but unbeknownst to us group of girls, the movie a wanted to see (a total chick-flick, Sydney White….I still have yet to see it) had finished the night before. We had little choice and the movie we all finally agreed upon was 3:10 to Yuma.
I was surprised at 3:10….it had all the major elements a western needs: an outlaw with his posse of deranged and animal-like gunslingers, a poor and humble farmer with a sweet family to think of yet with a rebellious son who challenges his father at every turn and tries to prove he is as much a man as the rest. There was also a hardened bounty hunter, Indian ambushes and sharp-shooters, stagecoach robberies and chases, gun fights both through town and on horseback….everything you could require from an all-out rootin‘ tootin‘ western.
Yet 3:10 was a little more than just shoot-em up western entertainment. No, in contrast, the story slowly wound around to take you into all the lives of the major characters.
Christian Bale plays the completely convincing rancher Dan Evans, an amputee from the war who is deeply in debt and about to lose his land and a father trying to prove himself to his sons and wife. Bale fits this role so well that we forget he is acting and are drawn into this man’s struggle to keep his family alive and to be seen as more than a failure in his son’s eyes.
Russell Crowe tops the cast as the wanted outlaw, Ben Wade; a notorious villain, killer of hundreds of men and leader of a cut-throat gang. Crowe uses his own smooth and slippery style to enhance Wade’s manipulative charm that makes young men want to be him and women want to resist him but find they cannot.
Young William Evans, Dan’s oldest son and critic to everything his father does or says, played by a new young actor Logan Lerman, is in awe of the outlaw Wade and sees him as more of a father-figure, more of a man to admire than his own father in all his failures.
However, the plot and themes of this western are much more exhilarating and honourable than any other I have seen. Dan Evans offers his services for $200 to save his farm as part of the escort to take the captive Wade to a town and put him on the 3:10 train to Yuma Prison. The group, made up of Evans, a crusty bounty hunter and Pinkerton agent, a classic “Doc”, a rich railway agent who has been after Wade for months after the villain managed dozens of robberies of railway cash, and the local town’s thug-for-hire, Tucker.
Along this journey, Evans and Wade are juxtaposed against each other; one the essence of idolization, envy, even intense hatred and the other looked over, viewed a failure and a lost cause. Yet, when Evans is tempted to take the easy road and walk away, to take the bribe, and walk out alive…he makes this most difficult and life-changing decision in a way no one had expected. Instead of being the so-called hero and saving everything he loves, including himself, Evans makes the choice to become an even more honourable example and keep his word, making the honest choice that his son can learn from and grow into an honest man. Though the choice puts everything in harm’s way, Evans knows it is the only way to have his son finally look up to him and not see him as a failure and coward.
Wade, though evil to the core, plays along with the rancher for a time, even to the point of laughing at him and passing Evans off as foolish, but eventually he come to understand the reason behind Evan’s decision and the hardness of Wade’s soul opens for a moment to let the poor rancher become what he needed to be for the sake of his son. It was almost as if we saw, for a moment, the time when Wade was nothing but a child, struggling as Evans seems to struggle.
More than the morals of this movie, some of the smaller characters make this a spectacular romp through old west ideals and situations.
The right-hand man to Wade, Charlie Prince, is in his own right another version of a notorious outlaw. Wade never needs to proclaim his deeds or stroke his name, but Prince constantly let everyone know who he is and what he and Wade’s gang have done in the past. “I e’spect you’ve heard of me.” Ben Foster, though a good-looking young actor, plays creepy to the pinnacle of creepiness as Prince. From his eye twitch to the tone of his voice, Foster emits a repulsive vibe of evil. He also falls into the category of ‘sidekick’, shown by the complete and utter loyalty to Wade, even after Wade’s capture as Prince forces the gang to come to Wade’s rescue. Without revealing any major secrets of the ending, I’ll just say that Prince shows the ultimate hand of brutality, with no heart, near the end of the movie as he does something that even Wade, in all his selfishness would not do.
A few other notably wonderful characters are those of Tucker, the hired thug from Evan’s town, played by Kevin Durand. From his heartless job burning Evans’ barn, to his grotesque teeth and annoying and angering habits, and even in the midst of outlaws and villains, Tucker is the guy we all love to hate. Also, the classic western “Doc” character is taken on by one of my favourite actors, Alan Tudyk. This Doc has a lovableness twist and a personable quality that we can’t help embracing.
I highly recommend the movie “3:10 to Yuma”, both as an action western and as a shining example of an honest man trying to be a positive influence in a world of malice, greed and hard hearts.