Having never seen the original 3:10 To Yuma, I cannot say how this remake directed by James Mangold compares to it. I can, however, say that this is an enjoyable Western with a great cast that should be enjoyed by fans of the genre.
Christian Bale plays Dan Evans, a good man who has fallen on hard times. The rains haven’t shown so the crops haven’t grown and so he’s in a lot of debt. One day, while out with his sons, he witnesses a robbery by Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang. Wade takes the horses from Evans and his sons but lets them live, a decision that he may regret when he gets cornered in a nearby town and guarded by a group of men that includes, yep, Mr. Evans. The aim is to get Ben Wade on the 3:10 to Yuma but that’s easier said than done when Wade’s gang (led by Charlie Prince, played by Ben Foster) will do whatever it takes to free their leader. Surprising as it may seem, Wade proves to be quite helpful in keeping Evans alive while they journey through dangerous territory.
There’s a lot to like here. The direction by Mangold is solid, the script by Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas nicely fleshes out the main characters and the acting is, of course, fantastic. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale work well alongside each other, Ben Foster almost steals every scene that he’s in and young Logan Lerman acquits himself admirably beside the likes of Gretchen Mol, Peter Fonda and Alan Tudyk.
The only, but also the biggest, problem that the movie has is the character motivation. It’s clear from the very beginning that Dan Evans is a good man who always tries to do the right thing but it’s never made clear just why this appeals to Ben Wade at this particular time in his life and why he decides to be helpful at any point. It’s certainly intimated that he respects men who are true to their word and doesn’t take it personally when people try to bring him to justice but there’s much more to it when it comes to how he decides to act with Evans and it would have been interesting to find out some more about what was going on in the mind of that complicated man. Having said that, the fun of the film comes from watching the central pair muddle through a very tough time, being entertained by the dynamic of the entire group and seeing certain characters grow more than others so there is still a hell of a lot to enjoy.
It’s far from an essential addition to the Western genre, and it pales beside modern classics such as Unforgiven, The Proposition, Open Range, etc but this is an enjoyable movie that feels very much like a perfect Sunday afternoon schedule-filler and entertains from start to finish.
DIRECTOR: JAMES MANGOLD
WRITER: HALSTED WELLES, MICHAEL BRANDT, DEREK HAAS
STARS: RUSSELL CROWE, CHRISTIAN BALE, BEN FOSTER, LOGAN LERMAN, GRETCHEN MOL, ALAN TUDYK, PETER FONDA
RUNTIME: 122 MINS APPROX