3:10 To Yuma (2007)
3:10 to Yuma in any incarnation is the story of desperation and savagery in American society. These are both character-driven films, a celebration of the individual, yet prone to accidentally becoming satire when the focus is switched to setpieces or heavy action. Yet underneath the metaphor and homage is a finely-crafted story, brought to life in both versions by two unassailable actors at the top of their game.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Westerns made their mark as a genre with shootouts, showdowns, and cowboys as mythical figures bringing justice and meaning to a chaotic barrenness hungry for shape. The Wild Wild West, a desert promising gold for the greedy, land for the hardworking, and oil for the thirsty is as much a character in westerns as the stoic heroes and the unshaven villains. 3:10 to Yuma puts two opposing forces together against the backdrop of the dry west in a morality play heading straight for that line drawn in between good and evil.
The Western might be the only venerable genre of the grand golden age of film which is still struggling for resurgence. The epic has been back in full swing since 2000, in the guise of both sword & sandal (Gladiator) and religious-themed (Passion of the Christ). Grand fantasy not seen since the days of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts has seemingly trumped science fiction thanks to the crowd-pleasing Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia series. And even the movie musical, assumed to be forever relegated to a time of cheery optimism and hope long since past, surprisingly re-emerged anew, first by way of an animated face-lift (Beauty and the Beast) and soon after in both current pop (Moulin Rouge) and extravagant Broadway formats (Chicago, Dreamgirls). And yet, despite some highly praised and enjoyable attempts, such as Unforgiven, winner of Oscar\'s 1992 Best Picture, and Tombstone, a kinetic, popular favorite, no one seems able to fully inject lasting life back into the corpse of the cinematic Western. 3:10 to Yuma provided another bolt of lightening, however, as the two lead performances of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale garnered unanimous praise and found box office success with audiences over late summer 2007.
Acoustic guitar takes the stage along with tack piano in "Man of His Word" as action heats up again in "Barn Burn", by way of a mix of pizzicato and bowed strings, dulcimer, guitar and rolling drums. The main theme returns on dulcimer in "Chinatown,", but in a more menacing tone. Another highlight is found in "Chinese Democracy" where the score leans on the Morricone stylisms in wonderful fashion, moving from acoustic guitar presentation of the theme and onto grinding, rhythmic action featuring high solo trumpet. Effective, lonely atmosphere is set in "One For The Road / Storm Clouds", followed by further suspense and action cues, culminating in the sympathetic strings and guitar of "One Man Left", the return of the Morricone trumpet in "Bible Study", the jangly, rhythmic "Who Let The Cows Out?" and finally a winning, well-rounded presentation of the theme in "3:10 to Yuma".
Large, vertical movie advertisement for the 2007 film 3:10 to Yuma, the backside of a cowboy holding a gun in each hand, as he stands on a railroad track in front of an oncoming train. The background has a rough, antiqued paper look with stains, tears and cracks.
In this western, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale) agrees to be the armed escort for a captured killer named Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) who needs catch a train to his trial. But with the outlaw's gang determined to ambush Evan's effort, it is going to be a difficult task getting the criminal on the 3:10 to Yuma.
The decision to include these content issues is unfortunate, because 3:10 To Yuma could easily have conveyed the same impact in a PG-13 version. Obviously not a choice for children, the mature story effectively portrays the unseen dilemmas raging in the darkest of hearts, as well as the wars of conscience battling within the most ethical of minds.
Meanwhile a mental battle ensues between the men as the Wade uses psychological warfare against Evans. (It is easy to forget that the charming Wade can also be notoriously vicious.) As the clock ticks and the time gets closer for the 3:10 train to Yuma, the pressure grows. Who will win out in the end?
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3:10 to Yuma is the 2007 remake of the 1957 film of the same name, making it the second adaptation of Elmore Leonard's short story. It is about a small-time rancher who agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. A battle of wills ensues as the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.
For those of us who revere the Western genre and bemoan its long-term near-obsolescence, two such occasions for happiness were "3:10 to Yuma" and, especially, "No Country for Old Men," which, like all good Westerns, transcends the genre in the process of fulfilling it.
Cast member Christian Bale attends the premiere of "3:10 to Yuma" at the Mann National theatre in Westwood, California August 21, 2007. Bale is in negotiations to headline the fourth instalment of the "Terminator" movie series. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni 041b061a72