The western is back in '3:10 to Yuma'
Actor Robert Duvall was once quoted as saying the Russians have the novel, the English have the theater and Americans have the Western, and while watching James Mangold's "3:10 to Yuma," it's hard to disagree with him.
The film is a much-needed shot in the arm into a period that has been more than lacking for more than a decade. In "3:10 to Yuma," the mix between the glorified gunslinger and the very real hardships endured by many pioneers of that era is the perfect blend of grit and myth.
Bringing these two dichotomies to life and personifying the glory verse the struggle is Russell Crowe, the gun-toting, womanizing outlaw by the name of Ben Wade and Christian Bale's Dan Evans, a struggling rancher whose conscious is beginning to take its tole on both his land and his famil y.
By way of chance, Evans has been enlisted to make sure that the recently captured Wade gets on a train heading to prison, and it's this journey in which the two actors are able to play off each other that the consequence of choice begins to manifest itself and the heart of the movie is revealed.
While Crowe seems almost delighted to play his character, reveling in his lack of morality and complete disregard for human suffering, Bale's task is more of a stretch and the role takes the English actor out of his comfort zone and into an area he's been unfamiliar with until now.
In short, Evans is a loser, broke and unable to provide for his family. He's lost the respect of both his wife and his son, all of which comes from doing what he believes is the right thing.
It's these choices that Crowe mocks him for throughout the movie, pummeling Evans in a game of chess that he has no chance of winning. Yet what makes it so interesting is that in this case, Evans, the family man, is the one with nothing to lose while Wade, the outlaw, has both fortune and freedom on the line.
Bale gives a new twist to an old Hollywood cliche, the average Joe who is pushed to the limits of his own morality and sanity, a working-class hero on the outskirts of the American dream, forgotten by both God and government in a land where the law is only as effective as the guy with the biggest gun.
And Wade becomes the antitheses of all of that, an individual who himself is facing his own morality, the limits to how low he has gone in the past and whether he can muster any sort of redemption out of a life that is spent embracing such villainy.
These two polar opposites bring the film to a poignant climax with both men readying for their final stand, in which these choices that are foreshadowed throughout the movie are ultimately reckoned with.
"3:10 to Yuma" precedes the coming release of Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," another western, and if the early reviews are any indication, it might be time to give the genre another chance. "3:10 to Yuma" is rated R for violence and some language.