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Review: The 3:10 to Yuma is One Great Ride

September 5, 2007

10 to Yuma - Directed by James MangoldThis weekend, you have an opportunity to take in a movie that serves as an example of why people go out to the movies. 3:10 to Yuma is the kind of movie that you buy your tickets early, wait in line to get your seat (and believe me, you will wait), buy your popcorn and wait for the lights to go down. By the end of the film, you’ll remember why for certain movies, there is just no substitute for the big screen and communal film-going experience.

This past Sunday, I was one of the lucky ones to get in on Yuma’s sneak preview screening; one that left many kicking their boots in the dirt. Screens across the country were sold out, and for good reason. James Mangold‘s thrilling Western is an event that should not be missed. Refreshing moments like these in cinema when casting, screenwriting and direction come together to deliver something worth an audience’s time and money just don’t come along enough.

3:10 to Yuma tells the story of Dan Evans (Christian Bale) a proud, but poor rancher whose success as a father and husband have left him just as destitute. One day when Evans is forced to go searching for his few remaining head of cattle, he comes upon the aftermath of a robbery led by the notorious Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). It follows soon after that the law catches up with Wade and proximity affords an opportunity for Evans to earn some quick money delivering Wade to the 3:10 train bound for the Yuma, Arizona prison yards. But can it ever be that simple? Hardly. . .

The two powerhouse talents with top billing are enough to take notice. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale on screen together? You figure it out. Crowe delivers his most engaging performance since 1999’s The Insider and Bale shines in yet another performance which proves why he is among the finest actors of his generation. Both Bale and Crowe deliver nuanced performances that in less capable hands, could have been cliché-ridden and derivative. Mangold deserves kudos for having a vision which demands such strong performances. Rest assured, nuanced does not mean you are in for a quiet stroll through the desert while two men contemplate the dust in their navels.

Ben FosterIn this film, the pop and spark on screen come from
Ben Foster, a young actor who demands attention on the screen even with presences as big as Bale and Crowe’s. Foster, who will be best remembered as Claire’s confused artist boyfriend on the HBO series Six Feet Under, is the flamboyant, fiercely loyal and and even deadlier Charlie Prince. If you pay attention around town, you’ll note that many of the posters and banners (including the one above) feature Charlie Prince. Foster has created a character which is iconic. In another five years, when the American Film Institute gets ready to do their 100 Years, 100 Western Villains retrospective, Foster’s piercing-eyed villain will place highly.

Director James Mangold can take a lot of pride in creating a film which plays well on so many levels. Where many directors might have taken the easy road to create an predictable buddy movie or a brainless good-versus-evil taste-of-the-old-West, Mangold and screenwriters Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt & Derek Haas have crafted a rich and vibrant piece.

Since Mangold can not yet claim the pedigree of Clint Eastwood, this isn’t his Unforgiven. But that’s good news. Mangold proves through Yuma that he is a voice we should continue to look forward to in the future, no matter what the genre is.

Throughout the movie you’ll notice a well fleshed-out cast with performers as diverse as Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Alan Tudyk and the young Logan Lerman who turns in a fine performance as Bale’s eldest son.

3:10 to Yuma was in truth, an opportunity for me to get out of a swelteringly hot day, and not necessarily something that I just had to see at my first chance. I’m here to tell you however, that you have the prospect of going to see this the film with the opening weekend crowds, and that it’s half the fun. This first film of the fall season is easily a highlight after a devastatingly sad cinematic summer. Don’t be surprised if it also proves to be the first film to see some Oscar buzz.

At this closing point in my review, it’s almost customary to insert some cheesy critic sound-bite about “getting on board”, but in all honesty, I can’t get past saying it. . .

Don’t miss the 3:10 to Yuma! (So shoot me.)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 7, 2007 5:58 pm

    Hi Stef!
    Lookin forward to it next week hopefully. Thanx for the review. Very good and helpful. Nice to see the faces too–especially Foster. See ya…Yur Mutha

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