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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 36.67%
Average: 14.44%
Pretty Bad: 5.56%
Total Crap: 3.33%

8 reviews, 42 user ratings

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3:10 to Yuma (2007)
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by Jay Seaver

"Why people love westerns."
5 stars

When I saw the first film made from Elmore Leonard's short story "3:10 to Yuma" a couple years ago, I described it as "a game of cat and mouse with the cat and the mouse in the same room". James Mangold's version doesn't spend quite so much time in that room, but does manage a few things which improve on the previous adaptation.

The basic story remains the same - outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang brutally attack a payroll coach and happen to land in the town of Bisbee at the same time as flat-broke rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale). Wade is captured, but with Pinkerton man Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda) injured, railroad representative Grayson Butterfield (Dallas Roberts) hires Evans to help transport Wade to Contention, where he'll be loaded onto a train to Yuma prison. There's one big hitch, though - Wade's mad-dog second-in-command Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) is looking to spring him. A smaller problem is that Dan's fourteen-year-old son William (Logan Lerman) has decided to tag along.

That last bit is the biggest change from the 1957 version - in that version, it was Dan's wife who joined up with him in Contention, rather than his son. That's not just a change to the details of the plot - William is at the very center of what this movie is about. Even before the movie starts, Will has lost patience with his cautious father, and Ben Wade seems to be everything Dan is not - bold, willing to take what he wants, charming. Where the first movie was about two smart, articulate characters trying to outwit each other before the clock ran down, this one is a battle for William Evans's soul - or at least his respect. It's an angle that adds more than a bit of emotional heft to the proceedings; where the first film was a highly enjoyable potboiler, there's something a little more universal going on here, since most of us can relate to a young man facing a choice between two conflicting role models.

For that to work, you need two strong figures as the role models, and the actors make each compelling in their own way. Russsell Crowe gets to be the charmer; his Ben Wade likes to talk, whether to get into the bed of a pretty barmaid or under the skin of his captors. He'll lull the audience into believing that he's one of those mythical outlaws with a code before doing something savage, but then in another scene we'll see that there's more intelligence than just cunning to him, and that he feels trapped by the life he's chosen. Bale's Dan Evans, meanwhile, doesn't talk so much but does seem to bear the weight of the world on his amputated leg. He's not quite as smart as Wade, just practical, and Bale does a nice job of playing Evans as self-sacrificing without being especially noble: There's a bit of wounded pride working its way into most of his choices.

It's not just a two-person show (which was pershaps the case with the prior version). Ben Foster devours every scene he's in as Wade's lieutenant; he's what you'd expect a vicious outlaw to be like only more so. Logan Lerman, on the other end of the spectrum, adds just the right amount of youthful innocence to his character's disillusionment to keep him from being just a contemporary sullen teen transplanted to the 1860s. Dallas Roberts and Peter Fonda know how to make us a little nervous, even though they're supposed to be the good guys, while Alan Tudyk turns in yet another enjoyable supporting performance as the good-natured Doc Potter. And though this is a movie about the bonds between men, Gretchen Mol and Vinessa Shaw contribute just the right accent to that as Dan's wife and a saloonkeeper who catches Ben's eye.

One of the things that has seemed to cripple westerns over the past few decades is that every one seems to have the burden of potentially being the movie that revitalizes the genre. What's particularly astonishing about this film is how effortlessly it seems to handle that task. After years of deconstruction and pastiche, director James Mangold and writers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (Halsted Welles, who wrote the screenplay for the 1957 version, is also credited, as is Elmore Leonard, the author of the original short story) aim solidly at reconstruction. There's unromanticized realism here - the violence is bloody, oppressed Chinese laborers are building railroads, and Dan's injury shows how doctors earned the nickname of "sawbones" - but the filmmakers rebuild the myth of the Old West around it: Will devours dime novels. Ben delivers a dreamy monologue about Dodge City. An Indian attack can come out of nowhere. A set of pistols has a cool name (and decorations to match). Towns may be dusty, and some parts look dirty and not just lived-in but lived-hard-in, but the idea isn't to make the entire milieu unpleasant; the hotel room where the characters hole up once in Contention is a nice place. Without making a big deal out of it, Mangold and company once again make the old West an exciting place that promises adventure without crossing it with fantasy or ignoring the fact that todays audience is a bit more jaded than that of fifty years ago.

And while they've made the idea of a straight-ahead western something that a modern audience can swallow, they also make it a rousing adventure. There's plenty of big action set pieces that let us see what powerful forces Ben Wade and his gang really are, culminating on the mad dash across the city of Contention. The film is also beautifully shot (by Phedon Papamichael) and scored (by Marco Beltrami); the look and sound recalls the great westerns of the past but does not simply copy them (it is also, by the by, pretty sweet to have digital surround sound for a big ol' Western gunfight). Things maybe get a little over the top in the last action sequence, but it's all right; the film and its characters have earned the right to be a little larger than life.

"3:10 to Yuma" is a fairly impressive accomplishment on its own: It's the best western in many years and can certainly appeal to people who don't usually like the genre. Just as impressive is the fact that, unless I miss my guess, some of those people might start to see the western's appeal afterward, and even want more.

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originally posted: 09/11/07 09:34:05
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User Comments

1/14/19 Mike Amazing. Loved it. Loved Ben Wade. 5 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell great western remake 5 stars
1/23/14 Charles Tatum Outstanding remake, a modern classic 5 stars
4/30/09 Jessica Hurst This movie was friggin awesome. The guys wre really hott too. 5 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. finally a good western. 4 stars
12/21/08 noops.... their wrists move fast ...they r westerners 5 stars
9/14/08 Annie G Probably now my favorite western. 3 stars
9/07/08 Halad65 A great western. Bale and Crowe are great. 5 stars
7/06/08 John Millheim Good western, Crowe does a great job 5 stars
6/14/08 Michele Loved it, and I totally got the ending. Ben's remarks at the beginning give the ending away 5 stars
5/29/08 MDH-Matt One of '07's best. Crowe+Bale=Dream. Too bad Ben Foster steals the movie 5 stars
4/13/08 mark madsen this is a great movie. 5 stars
4/04/08 Colleen Cousineau My husband loved it, I don't care for westerns. 3 stars
3/29/08 R.W. Welch Nifty western until the finale which gets a little out-of-control. 4 stars
3/15/08 KingNeutron Saw it and was really disappointed - any Louis Lamour book is better than this junk. 2 stars
3/08/08 Phil M. Aficionado Strong cast and superb production values; the action and morals are extras 4 stars
3/02/08 Servo Not bad, but the ending just feels false. 3 stars
3/01/08 mormor613 Emotional rollercoaster ... superbly done 5 stars
2/06/08 Monday Morning Man, was this thing overrated. Many TV shows are much better. 3 stars
1/30/08 mr.mike Crowe and the Morricone-inspired score are aces 5 stars
1/17/08 Jason The plot makes is a nonsensical cliche of reatrdation 2 stars
1/09/08 action movie fan slightly above cliche western-not very exciting but i don,t care for westerns anyway 2 stars
1/08/08 Double M Those who think people are only extreme good\evil won't get the ending. A+ Cast. Brilliant. 5 stars
11/12/07 Alec Started out on the right foot, but the ending ruins the whole film. 2 stars
10/24/07 William Goss Thoroughly solid remake, with Fonda arguably leading a very good ensemble. 4 stars
10/08/07 Bert Kaplan Great movie; powerful,thoroughly engrosing, fades a bit at the end though 5 stars
9/26/07 damalc can't think of a movie with bale or crowe that i didn't like 5 stars
9/25/07 raimey wright Outstanding-Russell Crowe now rides along with the greats of the old west.SEE IT!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/23/07 Edler Very disappointing- The story is not believable and the characters are not likeable. 3 stars
9/22/07 Ole Man Bourbon Good movie, stupid ending. 4 stars
9/22/07 MP Bartley Mangold knows his genres inside out. Bale and Crowe outstanding. 4 stars
9/18/07 Quigley A pretty entertaining Western carried by Crowe and Bale. Not enough gunfights and action 4 stars
9/17/07 Private Deliberate, classy morality themed western based drame. Solid acting 4 stars
9/14/07 Bopo Very disappointing. A good theme that needed a better story to tell it. 3 stars
9/14/07 ciscokid Plot had too many holes and ending that makes no sense, Peter Fonda's character was great 2 stars
9/11/07 Elizabeth Nice to see a good western again! 4 stars
9/11/07 mark just another over the top shoot em up 3 stars
9/10/07 Jim Dumb. Bad guy wasn't loved by mom & shoot the bad guys standing in the street! 1 stars
9/09/07 Russ This movie looks awesome 5 stars
9/09/07 Joe Smaltz I may have seen a stupider, and worse movie, but I don't remember it. Crowe had a nice hat! 1 stars
9/07/07 Luce Rains Marshal Weathers in 3:10 to Yuma 5 stars
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  07-Sep-2007 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jan-2008



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