3:10 to Yuma
If I become your ward, can I wear a cape?

Golden Mug

Adapted Screenplay (Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt, Derek Haas (screenplay) Elmore Leonard (short story))

Theatrical Release Date: 09/07/2007
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Peter Fonda, Ben Foster, Gretchen Mol

For over twenty years, the western has been a forgotten film genre. I’ve heard multiple people involved in the film world lament over the lack of financing available and I’m not sure if I blame potential investors since only 1992′s Unforgiven and 2006′s “The Proposition” have been worth their salt.

Considering the genre is about the American wild west, I actually find it quite funny that once past the “Gunsmoke” era, it was Italian Sergio Leone (largely via Clint Eastwood) that kept the western alive. (If you didn’t know, it is the Italian production of those films which led to the term,”spaghetti western”.)

Heck, “The Proposition” is an Australian film and the lead actors in “3:10 to Yuma” are Australian and British. Why can’t one American not named Eastwood make a quality western for the big screen?

My mini-rant aside, I will say up-front that I never saw the 1957 original “3:10 to Yuma”. I caught a bit of it on cable once but couldn’t stick with it. I had no problems sticking with the updated version, however.

Christian Bale plays a poor rancher in desperate need of money. Along comes a notorious outlaw played by Russell Crowe, who gets himself captured after his umpteenth stagecoach robbery. The powers that be (which in this time period means railroad company) want to deliver Crowe to justice, so that he can be hanged for all ne’er-do-well’s to see. Bale signs on to be a part of the posse that brings him to a waiting train for transport to Yuma prison, hoping this will end his money woes.

What I found surprising about the film was that it wasn’t reliant on gunfights to keep the audience interested. This really is about the characters. Bale is struggling to provide for his family and feels that his family has lost all respect for him – he sees this as a chance to be redeemed in their eyes.

Crowe has done all that an outlaw can do, killed countless people and charmed his way through enough ladies to start a very decent book club. His inner journey is about redemption and through his interactions with Bale and his family, we see Crowe’s character travel an impressive arc.

While a film matching actors of their caliber against one another would probably be enough, the supporting cast elevate the movie as a whole to that next level. Peter Fonda finally agreed to be in a good movie this decade that had nothing to do with motorcycles (“Wild Hogs“, “Ghost Rider“) and I’m glad for that. He’s far too good of an actor to just be in films because they agreed to write a check. Also, Gretchen Mol and Logan Lerman do a nice job of playing Bale’s family, giving the audience an idea of what their dynamic has become through circumstance and poverty.

While they and the others in the supporting cast do a good job, it is Ben Foster that really adds a layer of depth to the film. As in “Alpha Dog“, he plays a character that seems to just exude tension and border on psychopathic. Whenever he’s on screen, you just feel like people are going to die, and he’d probably like to be the one that does the shooting.

The other elements of the film are all done very well, from script to production design. Really, whether this film is worth your time comes to down to whether you like westerns. If the answers is yes, then by all means give this film a shot. If not, then go re-watch “Office Space” … if you haven’t seen that, feel free to let anyone else in the room smack you in the back of the head.

As a fan of the western, who’s hoping that there are more quality productions to come, I’m giving “3:10 to Yuma” a 4 out of 5. This might not crack into the top ten films of 2007 for me but it isn’t too far off that list.