DIRECTOR: James Mangold
It seemed like a tantalising pairing; Russel Crowe and Christian Bale. Both, great screen presences, one a great actor and a the other, Russell Crowe. That’s not to say that Russell is bad, but let’s face it, most of his performance is in his appearance rather than method.
In this remake of the 1957 original, based on Elroy Leonard’s short story, Ben Wade, Crowe, is a renowned outlaw who is finally captured after holding up another bank wagon. Rancher Dan Evans, Bale, is one of a party escorting Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma Prison. Meanwhile, Wade’s crew is on their trail with intentions of springing their leader, by whatever means necessary. Bale is a troubled, one-legged rancher, an ex-soldier who is heavily in debt, and in imminent danger of losing his ranch, so when he’s offered $200 to escort Wade, he takes it.
The first thing to happen whilst watching this film was that I looked at the clock 24 minutes in. I was beginning to bore. Then, as the credits rolled, I remarked that “the cinematography was good”. Not a good sign. When all is said and done though, this was a particularly well crafted film, with nothing short of excellent sound design and a cinematic style to be proud of. It felt convincing and may be to a pure western fan, this would have been a special production, but to me, it was just admirable.
The biggest issue with 3:10 To Yuma, was the character study at its heart. Overall, I liked it, but as the film progresses and the Bale’s rancher with something to prove and money to earn, earns the respect of his prisoner, Crowe, something went terribly wrong in the final act.
It concedes that Crowe had already been to Yuma prison twice before and had escaped both times, so going back is not half bad, and it seems to become clear that he is willing to let Bale get him to the eponymous 3:10 train in order to earn his pay and safe his ranch. But, as the shot out finale rolls on, Crowe never calls off his men, in fact it seems to be very confused as what his motives are during this sequence.
Does he want Bale to get him to train? Does he want to be sprung by his crew? So why help Bale one minute and leave him to fight his way through the next? Why run in the direction of the train when his capture is in no position to shot him as he defends himself from the onslaught of bullets?
All in all it was these incongruities that spoiled this film in its final leg. But like I’ve said, it was well shot, acted and sounded great. But was that enough to over shadow the confused and misguided ending, or the fact that the pacing was just a little too slow for my liking? Not really.