3:10 to Yuma

Paul Yim Paul Yim: (paulyim-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-02-07 14:34:38

3:10 to Yuma, 1957 original - Rank B; 2007 remake - Rank C

As a fan of Westerns, I have been suffering from a lack of production in that genre of late. So much so, that I purchased a book of short stories featuring the collected works of Elmore Leonard. That's right. He's the guy who wrote such notables as Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch (which was adapted to film as Jackie Brown). But before he embarked on his illustrious career as a crime novelist, he wrote many a short story set in the 1870s and '80s out on the arid deserts of Arizona. So I happened to read one called Three-Ten to Yuma and liked it. Lo and behold, soon thereafter, I find out someone's making a Western by that same moniker. Not only that, but it's actually a remake. And now both versions are on DVD.


The 1957 version stars Glenn Ford as the notorious outlaw Ben Wade and Van Heflin as his nobler counterpart Dan Evans. In this version of Leonard's adapted short story, Dan Evans does not have a rebellious (some would say punk-ass) son for Wade and Evans to battle verbally over. It focuses more on Dan's relationship with his wife, Alice, played by Leora Dana. Dan's redemption, in the end, is more or less in his doting wife's eyes.


Glenn Ford is particularly wonderful as the mischievous and murderous Ben Wade as he trades verbal jabs with his captors. His character really shines, however, when he's playing The Devil to Dan's Eve - only the setting is a dusty upper hotel room instead of The Garden of Eden. Watching the film you can't help but get the feeling that you're watching a stage play rather than a movie. The whole thing could've taken place in and around that hotel room. In fact, the meaty heart of the picture is about the dramatic tension brought on by one man's need for freedom and another man's need to do the right thing - which is all played out beautifully between Ford and Heflin in that hotel room.

In the remake of 3:10 To Yuma, starring Christian Bale as Dan Evans and Russell Crowe as his opposite number, Ben Wade, we find that director James Mangold (Walk the Line, Girl Interrupted, Copland) chose to make a more traditional Western. By "traditional" I mean that he chose to make a more plot-driven picture rather than a character-driven one, despite Christian Bale's best efforts to the contrary.


Every scene that Bale is in, you find yourself engrossed in his plight, both as father to his sons and as man to his woman. In a particularly poignant scene he pleads to his wife, played by Gretchen Mol, that "I've been standing on one leg for the last three years waiting for God to give me a break and He ain't listening. I'm tired, Alice. I'm tired of the way my sons look at me, and I'm tired of the way you won't." On paper it sounds pathetic, but Bale delivers his lines in such a way that you find yourself wanting to believe that the American Dream can be achieved by anyone - even a forgotten, one-legged, war veteran who's about to lose his home and his family.

On the other side of the acting spectrum we find Russell Crowe. His turn as the devilish yet endearing outlaw Ben Wade is passable if not altogether forgettable. His last memorable role was as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. He stood out in that movie despite the fact that he had the unlucky position of playing opposite the most beautiful leading lady of my generation - Jennifer Connelly. In 3:10 To Yuma you could have replaced him with another actor and nobody would have noticed a damn thing. He plays his usual, smirky, headstrong self. This used to annoy me to no end - like the time I watched Master and Commander. It was a great movie marred by Russell Crowe's overacting. Now his presence is barely noticeable. I believe he's talented, but for one reason or another he refuses to show up for his performances - he just mails them in.

I believe James Mangold could have made a better picture. Any director worth his salt will tell you that you never finish a picture; you merely stop making it and hope for the best. In the case of 3:10 To Yuma it's safe to say that the best is yet to come. That's not to say that the movie doesn't have any bright spots. Two performances in particular, aside from Bale's usual brilliance, stand out: Ben Foster (he played the winged mutant Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand) as Charlie Prince and Alan Tudyk (you might remember him as Wash from the sci-fi TV series Firefly) as Doc Potter. There were also a couple of stand-out shots as well: the burning of the stagecoach and, what should have been the last shot of the movie, Dan's son watching the train roll away. But a few bright spots do not make a film.

DVD Details
3:10 To Yuma (1957):
Sneak-peek of 2007 remake
Original trailer
1.85:1 standard widescreen
Black and white
French (mono) and English (mono) language tracks
French and English subtitles
Running time: 92 minutes

3:10 To Yuma (2007):
Audio commentary by James Mangold
Making-of documentary (nothing more than "Look how special our special effects are!")
Documentary about the Old West (think of how History Channel used to be)
Western genre retrospective by James Mangold and others
Deleted scenes
2.4:1 super widescreen (widescreen monitors will have letterboxing)
5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX
English Closed Captioned
Spanish and English subtitles
Running time: 122 minutes

The third link is the Blu-Ray version of the film.

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