10 October 2007
3:10 to Yuma Review
Ah, the joys of remakes. Inevitably they're either so different from the original that people will complain, or so bad that...well, people will...y'know...complain. It's rare for one to come along that is actually truly genuinely a great film standing all on its own; but 3:10 to Yuma just so happens to fit rather neatly into that category.
It starts as it means to go on - dead of night, and young William Evans (a wonderfully understated Logan Lerman) awakes to find his father's barn aflame; set upon by goons of a debt collector that the one-legged war veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale) can't possibly hope to repay. So when $1000 dollars is offered to the man who gets the infamous, but now captured outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) onto the 3:10 train from Contention to Yuma, Dan can do nothing but accept the job.
After a summer of ridiculously over-wrought, heavily contrived and non-sensical stories (a trend only recently and brilliantly broken by Bourne's latest outing), this wonderfully crafted piece of story-telling is a welcome change. The story stays simple; there're no huge twists, no gargantuan revelations. It's just a tale of two men who, despite their flaws, are able to change each other for the better. James Mangold - in a far cry from Walk the Line - has supreme clarity of vision; keeping the plot tightly focused and stampeding along at an ever-increasing pace.
So obviously, you'd imagine that the core performances would have to work, and work well. And that they do; Christian Bale is quietly intense, with all the grittiness that one might expect from a man shunned by the country he fought to protect. He's not out for the glory, he just wants to finally own the land he lives on. It's a wonderfully deep performance, with Mangold lingering on Bale's face as the world - and Ben Wade's crew - close in around him.
Crowe is, whilst equally good, almost a polar opposite. His Ben Wade is a man with no boundaries, no family and no real friends. To use the cliché, Crowe has been unleashed upon this character, and it is - quite simply - a joy to behold. From the introduction scene, which finds Wade blasting one of his comrades in the chest for the most minor of errors, to the viciously cold monolgues; this is perhaps one of Crowe's finest performances to date.
Of course, whilst the two leads are the focus, they'd not work without a backlog of fantastic support, and this arrives in droves. From Alan Tudyk's Doc Potter, to Peter Fonda's wounded and world-weary mercenary, it all comes together beautifully. Of particular note is the superb performance of 15-year-old Logan Lerman, whose William Evans is both innocent and angry, and holds his own in scenes with the both Crowe and Bale more than admirably.
Obviously, though, this is a Western. So we're going to need some action, and whilst it isn't exactly scarce, this is hardly Shoot-'Em-Up-esque. However, when they do come they are exciting and well shot; the final battle being of particular note not just for it's choreography, but also for the sheer brutality of its final moments, and the emotional oomph that it subsequently packs. Heart-pounding is an understatement, to say the very least.
All-in-all, this movie is, pure and simple, a superb addition to the Western genre. It's a true Autumn movie, not big enough for the summer months, not cheerful enough for Christmas; it's desires to be nothing more than a superb piece of understated, gritty story-telling. See it. You won't regret it.
Ross' Rating: 8