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“3:10 to Yuma” a Riehlife Reel Life Review: It’s All About the Boy

From Wikipedia: ABOUT THE FILM---3:10 to Yuma is a 2007 Western film that is a remake of the 1957 film 3:10 to Yuma, making it the second adaptation of Elmore Leonard's short story. It is directed by James Mangold and stars Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Filming took place in various locations in New Mexico. 3:10 to Yuma opened September 7, 2007, in the United States.

OPENING PLOT SUMMARY---Outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang have been behind over 20 major robberies on the Southern Pacific Railroad in 19th-century Arizona. After orchestrating a vicious attack on an armored carriage, Wade is confronted by Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a down-on-his-luck rancher and Civil War veteran with a wooden leg whose cattle were used by Wade as a diversion in the attack. Wade leaves Evans and his two sons and travels to the town of Bisbee, Arizona, where Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), Wade's right-hand man, tells the railroad police that Wade has committed a robbery. The guards all ride out to investigate, leaving Wade and his gang in peace for a drink at the bar...and then...

Okay, those are the facts, now for the REEL LIFE REVIEW: It's All About the Boy

Strip away the gunplay and violence in "3:10 to Yuma" and what we have is a buddy movie, a road movie with a flanking of Greek Choruses on both sides of what might be the Good Guys and what might be the Bad Guys.

What's so interesting to our modern sensibility is it's moral relativism. Outlaw Ben Wade as played by Russell Crowe is both endearing and alarming. Rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is both vulnerable and resolute. It's the relationship between the two men and how they draw out under-used and perhaps even unknown qualities that makes the story so interesting. Seeing the movie last night makes me wants to see the original with Glenn Ford, but more, it makes me want to read Elmore Leonard's short story.

It's the presence of the 14-year-old son, though, that's at the heart of the movie and at the heart of the redemption and character changes we see witness in both Bad Guy Wade and Good Guy Evans (the boy's father). It's a triangle, see?

The active ingredients in the yeasty plot are William, and what he evokes in both men. Dan Evans wants to protect and provide for his family, of course, but more than anything else he is driven to have his son look on him with pride and respect as a man of courage and worth. Ben Wade, on his side, needs to heal a boyhood memory that still rips inside him.

Richard Roeper says he doesn't find the last 10 minutes of the movie believable, but I do and I also find the last ten minutes the most fascinating in terms of character revelation. Is the ending surreal? Yes, but also real in psychological terms. You could make a whole movie out of the last 10 minutes in which characters make a series of choices at astonishing speeds.

The crucial moment in "3:15 to Yuma" (the train that would take the prisoner to Federal Court) is Wade's story to Evans. When Ben was eight, he saw his father shot and his mother told him to go to the train station and wait while she bought tickets for their passage back East. She sent him off with a Bible and he read it cover to cover for three days. His mother never came.

We can guess this was the incident that set Wade off on his own and down a life of twisted crime and torture...mixed with the sensitivity of sketching and courting. What's important here is that Wade sees his younger self in William. When Dan reveals the true nature of the wound that led to the amputation of his leg, and his wish for his son to see him as a full man, something clicks in Ben and they become accomplices on getting him on the train. It's not about the money anymore. It's about the boy.

It's also a new game for Wade, who loves challenges. It's a game that is won and lost and won and lost and won again in the last 10 minutes of the film. The winning and losing is all in your point of view, of course.

Dan, the sensitive man who would be strong, gets his man by way of winning his heart. It's a kind of love story. The two men reach into one another and complement each other's missing qualities. Ben, the accomplished criminal turned accomplice to his own apparent capture, knows that, like Bogey, all he has to do is whistle (for his horse). And the boy? The boy goes home a man, having lived a lifetime in hardly any time at all.

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3 Responses »

  1. Oh, I see. It's like a twisted family values movie?

  2. I'm glad you said what you did about the last 10 minutes of the film. I've read so many reviews of this that say they are unbelievable, but I found them the most believable of all. I think, truly, if you don't understand why the choices that are made then ARE made, then you've missed out on the whole point of the movie and what's been happening inside the protagonists. I have a rather full deconstruction of Ben Wade from what I perceived him to be on my own website (http://libriscrowe.com/index.html), which rather blows my cover of why I'd be interested in doing such a thing. But I did want to take the time to say to you that I am so pleased that you saw what you did in the film. Makes me glad to see I'm not alone in finding the last 10 minutes...just right.
    Jo

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Janet. My husband, brother, and I left the movie dissatisfied and have discussed on and off since then why we think we reacted the way we did.

    When people ask me how the movie was, I don't want to dissuade them from supporting a western movie . . . so I just say, "Let me know what you think after you see it." There was plenty of 'wonderful' in the movie and tons of message and character insight - but something about it still leaves me dissatisfied. When I totally figure it out, I'll let you know 🙂

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