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Great Remake With New Twists,
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This review is from: 3:10 to Yuma (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
Although many say the Western is dead, in books as well as movies, it continues to rear its head and make itself known every so often. There's something inherently noble and visceral about the artform and the subject matter, the calm delineation between good and evil, that stubbornly continues to attract an audience.
In 2007, the Western showed back up at the box office in a trio of films that came out roughly at the same time. 3:10 TO YUMA was the first out of the gate, but it was followed in quick order by THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.
The movie had been made fifty years ago, and much of the plot in that version made it into the remake. Both movies were based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, who has had several of his Western and crime novels made into films.
Christian Bale stars as Dan Evans, a one-legged, down-on-his-luck rancher struggling to keep a home together for his wife and two kids. Russell Crowe plays Ben Wade, an intelligent and heartless outlaw who's leading one of the blood-thirstiest gangs to ever take up the owlhoot trail.
Both stars take turns stealing scenes. Bale has the hard-edged look of coarse rawhide. Crowe possesses some of the deadest eyes ever shown in movies.
One of the best portrayals in the movie was a surprise to me, though. It took me a minute to recognize Peter Fonda as professional bounty hunter turned Pinkerton agent Byron McElroy. Fonda reminded me a lot of his father Henry, but part of that is because Fonda has aged. He also delivers a quality of acting and honesty in the character that is just amazing, and he was content to carry the supporting character role and didn't try to upstage anyone.
Logan Lerman was another surprise. He stared as William Evans, Dan's 14-year-old son. I'd thought Lerman was much older, but as it turned out he was 14 when the movie was made. He was likeable and intense.
When it came to truly cold-blooded villains, though, Ben Foster as Charlie Prince totally blew me away. The hair on the back of my neck went up as soon as he stepped on stage, and within a minute I hated him.
The story is simple. Dan is struggling to make ends meet and bumps into Wade during an armored wagon job. Later, after taking Byron McElroy into town for medical attention, Dan confronts Hollander, the man who's trying to run him off his land. When Hollander won't give him an extension on his loan, Dan finds Wade and helps take him captive. Then he agrees to help transport him to Yuma for $200.
The movie quickly spins out into the action of the violent road trip. In addition to being one of the fastest gunmen around, Wade is also a skilled psychological warrior, constantly taunting his captors and seeking out their weaknesses.
The action involves traveling through hostile Indian lands, meeting up with a team of killers working the railroad coming through the area, and a final showdown in Yuma that is one of the most exciting I've ever seen in a Western.
For two hours, I sat marveling at the characters, then tensely awaiting the outcome of the latest danger they were all facing. Even then, the twists and turns of the characters, the back stories they were all hiding till the very last moment, were awesome. No one was quite who I thought they were.
Westerns succeed best by having good men with a history of bad violence and bad men who haven't completely gone over to the dark side. 3:10 TO YUMA is one of those.
One caveat I will offer to people who have seen the original movie starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, this version does NOT follow the same paths or end up the same way. Expect to be surprised and shocked at how things turn out. And you'll be tense nearly the whole way through.
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Showing 1-10 of 24 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 8, 2008 10:45:10 AM PST
Too Cold in Madison says:
I've heard that the ending is so ludicrous that it destroys the entire film. I take it you disagree?
Posted on Jan 23, 2008 3:12:13 PM PST
sounds pretty good leaving right now to buy a copy of 3 10 to yuma
Posted on Jan 24, 2008 4:48:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 24, 2008 4:48:41 AM PST
I, too, was surprised by Fonda. It took me longer than a moment to figure out who he was. If you haven't seen this one on DVD, I'd suggest renting or borrowing a copy just for the special features. Not only do the "behind the scenes" info add to understanding the director's intent but the historical info is amazing. I wrote about it in my review. I think your review is superb, by the way. I love this sentence of yours "No one was quite who I thought they were." Agreed!
Posted on Jan 24, 2008 4:54:07 AM PST
Too cold in Madison - The ending may surprise you but I did not find it ludicrous but completely in keeping with the rest of the movie. What is amazing is how well it works and it takes some acting talent to pull it off. There is one final moment that I wish I could describe, a visual effect, that was haunting to me. Some people may find it silly. I did not but saw it as a nod to western culture - and horses. It is particularly resonant if you watch the special features on the DVD, as it helped me to understand why that set of images would be the last on the screen.
Posted on Jan 26, 2008 8:01:51 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 21, 2008 3:24:00 PM PST
Foothills Fred says:
It is the height of conceit to take a classic old western and think you can hype it up and make it better. The result in this case made it highly improbable, with characters "fanning" their sixguns (anyone who has ever fired a handgun knows it's hard enough to hit your target while aiming, let alone fanning, which is strictly Hollywood). Then the one "main" villian playing with his (sixguns, that is) constantly drawing and reholstering them, another Hollywood improbability. Further, the only way this movie's ending could have been even more absurd is if Crowe's character, Ben Wade, had made a noose and hanged himself. I also felt very sorry for Wade's horse trying to pursue that 3:10 to Yuma without running itself to death. I love westerns. If you want to view behavior that was more likely in those days, see "Lonesome Dove" and "Open Range" for starters. Then take a trip to Tombstone, AZ, and see the realistic reenactment of the OK Corral gunfight, which took seconds, not minutes, with participants standing so close to one another that they could almost have clubbed each other to death. Furthermore, no one usually came to those battles without a weapon already in their hand, as opposed to seeing who could draw and fire fastest. Their goal was staying alive and not showing off to see who was the fastest draw.
Those that thought this mostly hokey movie was realistic should stick to watching the old Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy movies and other contrived "Mother Goose" fairy-tale westerns where almost everyone wore "Buscadero" rigs which didn't exist until developed for 1940s Hollywood Westerns. Further, what does "triggered his gun by thumb" mean? How awkward it would be trying to use your thumb on the trigger unless one is trying to shoot themselves--which I almost expected Ben Wade to do at the hilarious end of this movie. And, saying "Fanning was mostly for speed.. [sic] not accuracy. Like cover fire," is so ridiculous that if made me LOL. Cover fire? Those were SIX-shooters, and the typical gunbelt in those days only had room for another 24-rounds--except maybe Andy Devine's. It's not like they are using modern M-4s with several stacked 30-round magazines.
If you read up on history of the American West, you will find that those who were successful and survived relied on accuracy not speed. Or maybe you'd like "Heroes"-like Westerns with the cowboys wearing capes and flying rather than riding horses. If you like fairy-tales, better stick with Mother Goose. BTW, the sixguns used for fanning must have modified sears inasmuch as anyone that knows anything about single-action revolvers (such as the Colt SAA) knows that fanning can cause the sear to break rendering the weapon as useless as those who think fanning is effective for providing covering fire. When all the ammo you have is 24 rounds, you can't provide a lot of covering fire unless you also have a Gattling gun at your disposal and a crew to reload the magazines. In addition those who carried two handguns (which was rare) did not fire both at once as that couldn't be done with any degree of accuracy (except perhaps by M. Edgar). They did so because it lessened the chance of having to reload at some critical moment if they carried only one gun and were poor marksmen.
Archie Mercer, who takes no umbrage with improbablity, would have loved all the old John Wayne war movies (such as "Sands of Iwo Jima") in which, as USMC SGT Fran Striker, he carried an M1 rifle that he was never seen reloading, which would have been impossible anyway as he never had any ammo pouches or carried any bandoliers.
Makes you wonder why so many of the more professional movie makers strive for such precise accuracy.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2008 11:45:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 28, 2008 11:48:49 PM PST
M. Edgar says:
I enjoyed your review Mel. I am a fan of the original and I enjoyed this version as well.
I guess Fred thought this was a documentary..
By the way.. Ben Wade triggered his gun by thumb, not fanning and also by the way.. I fan a six gun myself and know several people who do. Just because it may not have been typical, does not mean it never happened. Fanning was mostly for speed.. not accuracy. Like cover fire.
SPOILER ALERT (which Fred also decided not to put) **************** SPOILER ALERT
It never occured to me that the horse was ever going to run to Yuma. I assume Ben Wade had something else in mind. Might just be me though.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2008 10:47:28 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 16, 2008 10:53:44 PM PST
Archie Mercer says:
I'm not sure what Fred's point is other than the western in general has improbable actions. He mentions Open Range as an example of normal behavior for that period of time. Although I loved that movie, you have got to be kidding? At the beginning of the gunfight in the street Costner's character, Charlie Waite, is seen not only fanning his six-shooter as he shoots one person but if you count the shots he shoots 11 times. Not bad for a six-shooter!
Let's not dissect the film to the point of being absurd. Every film stretches the truth as a convenience for the plot, and none more than the western. Just sit back and enjoy it!
Wow, just a little touchy there Fred, don't you think?
Actually I did like a lot of the old war movies, not just John Wayne films. One of my favorite's WWII movies is "The Bridge Over The River Kwai" starring William Holden and Alec Guinness. Considered a classic and one of the best war films ever made, and yet if you look at it from a historical point of view it's quite ludicrous. The Japanese slave camps in the Burmese jungle were horribly brutal. Any act of defiance was grounds for immediate execution. Does the fact that the film is unrealistic and improbable then make it a bad movie? Of course not. Or, back to the western genre another William Holden film, "The Wild Bunch" had one of the most improbable endings ever filmed. And yet, many consider it one of the best westerns ever made.
My point is, a film of fiction doesn't have be looked at based on whether it's realistic. Good Heavens, if that were the case then "Pulp Fiction" is a horrible movie. What makes a film good, or bad, is how the filmmaker tells the story. How good the characters are, how tense the drama is. At the end, do we care about the characters and how they faced the final scenes. Dissect the movie based on realisim if you want but you're probably missing out on the joy of a good movie.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 8, 2008 12:02:42 PM PST
the mook says:
another movie where common sense would make its run time 45 minutes. shackle wades feet when sleeping and shoot him where he stands should he look at someone the wrong way.this was almost complete drivel.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2008 4:45:16 PM PST
Alan James says:
The idea was that Evans needed the money offered to deliver Wade ALIVE to the 3:10 to Yuma. Not really drivel. Presumably he wasn't shackled because they were SUPPOSED to be keeping watch on him through the night taking shifts guarding him. Would've been a pretty crappy movie if Wade was shot dead 45 minutes in for 'looking' at someone the wrong way. In my humble opinion.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 21, 2008 4:28:39 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 21, 2008 4:34:46 PM PST
Foothills Fred says: