3:10 To Yuma
, 14 Oct 2007
Few things make me more concerned for the future of cinema than the all-pervasive trend for remakes currently sweeping Hollywood. Okay so theres the odd good one but for every Dawn of the Dead theres a Black Christmas, and a Hitcher, a Fog and
you get the point. So we arrive at the question of what the hell Im doing at the screening of a remake, of a Western (a genre Ive no time for) or indeed at a film starring Russell Crowe (who, LA Confidential aside, Ive never liked in a movie, ever). I cant really give you an answer other than It was what was on but Im glad I did sit down for this one, as it was one of the biggest and best surprises that 2007 has yet offered up at the movies.
This is an old fashioned oater, drawn from a short story by Elmore Leonard.
Crowe plays Ben Wade, an outlaw finally captured and headed to the titular train for transportation to prison and then the gallows. Bale is Dan Evans, a farmer who volunteers to join the party escorting Wade because he needs the reward money to keep his land. The party make their two-day journey, pursued by Wades gang now led by Charlie Prince (Foster).
Christian Bale is one of the most versatile actors in the world right now and even when hes in a film Im not overly keen on Bale is always good value. 3:10 provides his best performance in a good while. He reveals Dan slowly, building each new scrap of information into a complex, real and utterly compelling character. Crowe is also excellent. Ive been used to seeing him coast but here he brings real progression to Wades character. The scripted change in the man could easily have been forced but Crowe makes it feel organic and his chemistry with Bale works beautifully, giving the film a rock solid centre.
Among a clutch of great supporting performances it is well worth singling out Ben Fosters sociopathic Charlie Prince. I only previously know Foster from the guiltiest of pleasures; Get Over It so to see him disappear behind an untidy beard and create one of the out and out scariest, most hateable screen villains of recent times was a real shock. Its a career maker. Theres also nice work from 15-year-old Logan Lerman as Bales son.
Mangold, together with his regular cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, has created a great looking film. Theres a dirty realism to everything even as the film captures the gorgeous locations. Its kinetic too, the action beats come pretty thick and fast and are varied, exciting and visceral. There are stand out moments right from the start when a robbery establishes that Ben Wade is not one of those villains with a well hidden heart of gold to the near unbearably tense final shootout as Dan escorts Wade to the 3:10 to Yuma. This is the antithesis of Shoot Em Up. Everyone that dies here is a real person, each bullet has consequences and the business of killing is never fun.
3:10 To Yuma is a great film, and yet more evidence that James Mangold is a consistent talent who is able to bring expertise to just about any genre.
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