Anthony's Film Review

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

A Western movie that departs from genre cliches and explores two interesting characters...

3:10 to Yuma, based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, does not appear to be your typical Western movie. I mean this in a good way, and I see nothing wrong with a run-of-the-mill Western movie with purely good guys versus purely bad guys and other familiar elements. Still, I could not help but notice how 3:10 to Yuma feels different from the formula Western I initially expected. Basically, if you like Western movies that dare to be original, especially if you're sick of Western genre conventions, then here's one you might like.

An outlaw named Ben Wade, played by Russell Crowe, leads a gang that ambushes a stagecoach, kills its occupants, and takes a box of money from their possession. However, Wade is apprehended by authorities. Not too far away, a rancher named Dan Evans, played by Christian Bale, lives with his wife and two sons. Evans used to fight in the Civil War but is now struggling to make ends meet for his family, especially as his land is soon repossessed. Soon, Evans stumbles onto Wade's situation and finds a desperate measure to earn money: offer to help the authorities escort the now-arrested Wade.

From there, the journey begins. Wade is to be put on a 3:10 train en route to a prison at Yuma. Evans and a few other men have the task of guarding Wade as they journey for miles across the landscape to the train station where the 3:10 to Yuma will depart from. The movie is essentially a series of moments that occur along the way. It's one thing if the path were much quicker and shorter. But it's not.

And that's how the movie becomes interesting. With so much time and distance before the group reaches the train station, there is much opportunity for dialogue. Immediately, there is a paradox. All you have to do is look at the faces of the two central characters. Wade may be an outlaw, but he seems to be calm and rational and, believe it or not, even quotes the Bible now and then. In contrast, Evans is in the good guy role but he looks bitter, maybe because of his ongoing worries about his family. If you didn't know which one is supposed to be the outlaw, you'd think Evans was the one who committed robbery and murder.

Of course, there are potential threats along the way. At times, Wade may have the upper hand and try to escape, especially when Evans least expects it. More importantly, Wade's gang learns where he is going and attempts to intercept the trek to the train station. Obviously, you can expect a little bit of action to go with it. Speaking of which, the action sequence that is worth waiting for is in the climax. The shootout is intense, and it follows an equally intense standoff.

Even so, I'm tempted to go back and discuss the relationship between Wade and Evans, because that's what the movie really is about. From beginning to end, there is a gradual formation of what amounts to a friendship. Ultimately, the two don't become close. But they do come closer almost naturally, enough to try to understand each other and recognize humanity even in a foe. This is best illustrated by what happens in the climactic shootout. Evans protects Wade like a friend while Wade, as if accepting his fate, makes no attempt to escape even if he does have the chance.

With that, my rating for 3:10 to Yuma is positive. The only reason it's not the highest rating I can give is simply because some scenes were slow and literally too quiet. While I didn't feel fully engaged in much of the middle portion of the movie, I came to appreciate it once the last part of the story played out. I liked how the story presented the theme of friendship in a subtle and unconventional way. No matter how great a genre's conventions may be, departing from them is often more impressive.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about 3:10 to Yuma, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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