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Tue September 4, 2007
3:10 to Yuma
Get there on time.
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements, and went off grieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what modern civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their loss. They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever." Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer
In 3:10 to Yuma, a few references to The Magnificent Seven and the idea of a train arriving at a specific time when good and bad guys converge, as in High Noon, made viewing this Glenn Ford remake from 1957 a pleasant one. And right I was but for even more good reasons.
Not since Unforgiven and The Quick and the Dead have I been as excited about seeing a Western in its heroic and revisionist forms. 3:10 to Yuma is a true Western in the film tradition about the 19th-century American West: It has clear heroes and villains (and a mixture of those), wide prairies, dirty towns, fast guns, weak lawmen, cunning murderers, kids on the cusp, and women marginalized, just for starters.
Then ratchet up to the philosophical/post modern/post Eastwood reflections on the profession of being a gunman juxtaposed with being a responsible father, and you have a classic angst-filled clash where villain has a wee bit of heart and hero an equal measure of cowardice. Delightfully mix in a certifiable baddie in the Lee Van Cleef/Jack Palance tradition, Ben Foster (Alpha Dog) as Wade's amoral lieutenant Charlie Prince (as in "of darkness"). Best of all, it is nail-bitingly suspenseful and beautifully photographed.
In order to pickup some ranch-saving cash, poor crippled farmer Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is helping transport murderer Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to court via the 3:10 to Yuma from Bisbee, Arizona. Getting Wade to the station is not easy, even for several deputies, because Wade's evil gang is in hot pursuit and more importantly, Wade is psychologically working the posse from within, alternately charming and brutal; just imagine Crowe's roguish smile behind an extremely fast gun and unscrupulous conscience.
It's hard to believe a studio could dump such a winner in the dog days of summer. I will say only that if you have even a modicum of respect for this genre, see 3:10 to Yuma and relive the golden days of straight-up shoot-em ups with rough-hewn characters, electric plot, and revisionist attitude about the romance of being an outlaw or a farmer.
Get there on time because that movie train moves fast from the get go.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com