3:10 To Yuma Review
It may take the youngest of viewers to see them in such simple terms but those westerns we grew up on and which starred John Wayne, James Stewart and Glenn Ford featured gunslingers making a name for themselves. The outlaws whose names linger in the history books are there only for their reputation as being faster and more deadly than most with a six gun or, more simply, being more willing to shoot to kill. 3:10 To Yuma runs counter to this tradition, one in which two men look to make some distance between what others believe they know of them and what they know to be the truth about themselves.
Christian Bale has the thankless job of playing the part of Dan Evans, an unexciting rancher who wakes during the night to find his barn on fire, lit in revenge for unpaid debts. His son rushes into the flames to claim the leather saddles from the fire while Evans shelters from the heat, his eyes looking anxiously at the burning rafters. A hero of the Civil War who was injured in battle, Evans' pride does not permit his walking away from the ranch that he's struggling to keep solvent. The coming railroad carries not the sound of progress but of time ringing out on his ranch. Russell Crowe is the charismatic outlaw Ben Wade, the leader of a gang of men who have wreaked havoc across Arizona, even to the Pinkerton stagecoach company hiring extra guards to be sure of their coaches safely reaching their destination. Amongst their robbing banks and their murdering, they shoot and almost kill the bounty hunter Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda).
Wade's days as an outlaw come to an end in the town of Bisbee when Wade is arrested by railroad guards, who offer Evans $200 if he joins the guards escorting Wade to the town of Contention, where he will be put aboard the 3:10 train to the jail in Yuma. A dinner at Evans' ranch is the last he and the rest of the guards will enjoy before setting out to Contention. The noise in the distance might be coyotes. Then again, it might be Wade's gang, who are now led by the killer Charlie Prince (Ben Foster).
3:10 To Yuma contrasts the characters of Dan Evans and Ben Wade. Each one has a gang of sorts, Wade more than half a dozen outlaws while Evans has his family, including son Will and wife Alice (Gretchen Mol). The early scene of the burning of his barn sets his character down amidst the violence on the borders of his land. There is a fear in his eyes as Will runs into the fire without thought or consequence. Against his will, Evans is roped into serving on the gang of guards who will escort Wade the short distance to Contention. Wade, though, sees something in Evans. The two actors use their time together wisely, each one showing a certain respect for each other. As their horses trot through the bush, Wade probes Evans and vice versa. Wade lets Evans live while he kills others without a thought and when it is that Wade is captured by a gang of miners digging through the mountain for the railroad, it is Evans who speaks up for him.
With Bale and Crowe happy to play off one another, the violence in the story is left to Charlie Prince. Wearing threadbare greys from the Civil War, Prince shoots, not so much first but without considering any other option. He is also completely unlike Wade. When one of his gang is killed on a raid, Wade dismisses it as being his own fault. When Wade is himself captured, Prince overrides the objections from his gang. Unlike Wade, Prince will leave no one behind and he will kill anyone, even the gang of outlaws that he now leads to rescue Wade. There is some suggestion of Prince being almost in love with Wade and when the opportunity presents itself to rescue him, Prince threatens and cajoles an entire town, not only offering a reward for the killing of Evans and the team of guards but is ready to murder as many townspeople as it takes to lead Wade to safety.
Within the town of Contention, as Prince rides up and down the main street, Wade and Evans sit in conversation. Both men are honest only so near their end. If there's no good reason why Wade takes such a liking to Evans, it may be that a man who reads, sketches and writes, finally meets a man that he can have a conversation with, one who, in turn, also opens up to Wade. Again, there is no good reason why Evans then takes such risks, having avoided them his whole life, by running through the gunfire to deliver Wade to the train. Wade is resigned to his fate while Evans' family gets the money he's due no matter what but it may be that they simply owe something to one another. Locked up in a hotel room together, while chaos rules in the street outside, their conversation is the turning point in the film, one in which their running away from themselves finally lands them with someone who understands why.
Lionsgate have done a superb job with 3:10 To Yuma. Just from the presentation of a handful of characters within a wide open frame, westerns do tend to look more appealing than most films on DVD and in the cinema but this is often wonderful. Phedon Papamichael's cinematography is often excellent and the DVD does it proud. The detail even in the night time scenes, particularly those that open the film, is impressive with the naturally dusty colour of 3:10 To Yuma looking good and with plenty of contrast between the characters in the foreground and the dark shadows in the background. When the sun rises, the film looks just as good with plenty of detail, very little noise in the picture and some striking use of colour.
The DD5.1 soundtrack is just as good, offering little in the way of obvious effects but just sounding so very solid that one never notices anything to be concerned about. There's not a good deal in the rear channels but the impression is that what is there has not been designed to catch the attention of the viewer, more that it's used subtly to add ambience to the film, for the occasional gunshot from behind the viewer and, in its clear moments of silence, to give space to the actors. There are English subtitles throughout but not for the Commentary.
For such a major release, there isn't a great deal here. James Mangold is on his own for a Director's Commentary but he keeps busy with anecdotes and stories from the making of the film, his reason for choosing to remake 3:10 To Yuma and how his version differs from the original. However, none of these moments in his commentary really form part of a whole, more that he jumps from one thought to the next, which isn't unwelcome but viewers may feel that Mangold isn't really concentrating on his film when he chooses to talk about his thoughts on the western, his liking of the widescreen image and the importance of the railroad. However, as one who has to listen to a good many commentaries in this line of work, I rather liked his approach, particularly his talking about anything that piques his interest.
Meanwhile, the features are a rather disinterested lot of odds and ends. Destination Yuma (20m07s), the making-of on the disc, features interviews with the cast and James Mangold, offers behind-the-scenes footage and glimpses of the set design and the action but does so from the time the film was being made, not as a retrospective look at its success and the themes in the film. The short Epic Explored (6m07s) counters this with a look at those themes as well as the ideas typical of a western that Mangold has brought into his work. Seven short Deleted Scenes (1m19s) don't add very much to the film while, finally, Outlaws, Gangs & Posses (12m24s) is like a brief history lesson on the mythology of the west and takes in such famous figures as the James gang, General Custer, Billy The Kid and Wyatt Earp.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 00:27:59