Ranchers and Russellers
The stars are well cast in this rugged, enjoyable western remake, writes Michael Dwyer
3:10 TO YUMA Directed by James Mangold. Starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Dallas Roberts, Alan Tudyk, Vinessa Shaw 15A cert, gen release, 122 min MOVIES based on Elmore Leonard’s stories have mostly been misfires, apart from a few honourable exceptions such as Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and in particular, Out of Sight. The first screen adaptations of his work were a couple of sturdy 1957 westerns, although Leonard was oddly unhappy with both: The Tall T, directed by Budd Boetticher, and 3:10 to Yuma, the Delmer Daves film of a Leonard short story published in Dime Western magazine.
A taut black-and-white production that starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, 3:10 to Yuma now gets the Hollywood remake treatment. Director James Mangold moves from the country-and-western milieu of Walk the Line to deliver a felicitous homage to the western, a genre that regrettably has become an endangered species in contemporary cinema.
The new Yuma, which is in colour, makes authentic use of iconographic locations and landscapes as it establishes a relationship between two men on opposite sides of the law. In the Ford role, Russell Crowe plays Ben Wade, a charismatic, no-nonsense outlaw whose history of stagecoach robberies has made him a wanted man.
Christian Bale takes over from Heflin as Dan Evans, a mildmannered, impoverished rancher, disabled in the US Civil War and struggling to hold on to his property. His impressionable 14-year-old son Will (Logan Lerman) shows more respect and admiration for Wade, and even Evans’s wife (Gretchen Mol) seems to have given up on her husband.
She is one of just two women in the movie; the other is a bartender (Vinessa Shaw) whose liaison with Wade results in his capture. Desperate for money, Evans joins the volunteers offered an enticing financial reward for escorting Wade to the Arizona town of Contention and putting him aboard the 3:10 train to Yuma, where he will stand trial.
The movie would not be quite so interesting if it did not get more complicated than that, and it does, not least when an unexpected mutual respect develops between Evans and Wade. The drama is set against the building of the railroad system in the aftermath of the civil war, but the law of the gun prevails. 3:10 to Yuma implicitly suggests that this remains a way of life – and death – in contemporary America, and not just for adults, given the trigger-happy nature of young Will, who claims that he can shoot and ride faster than any of the men bringing in Wade.
The action sequences are vigorously staged in classical western style and accompanied by a stirring Marco Beltrami score in the Ennio Morricone tradition. However, the remake is short on the compelling tension of the original, perhaps because it’s a half-hour longer, and falters in its resolution.
The actors compensate, with Crowe and Bale giving characteristically immersed and intriguingly shaded performances. The strong supporting cast notably includes the promising young Lerman, an unrecognisably aged Peter Fonda as a wounded Pinkerton bounty hunter, and, stealing every one of his scenes, Ben Foster asWade’s loyal, psychotic sidekick.
Dead or alive: dapper bandit Russell Crowe under guard in 3:10 to Yuma