Thursday, September 12, 2013

3:10 to Yuma (2007 film)


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/9/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.



Based on Elmore Leonard's short story, 3:10 to Yuma is the story about an ex-Civil War sharpshooter who is asked to accompany a vicious criminal to a prison train as he and various men are being followed by the criminal's gang. Directed by James Mangold with a screenplay by Stuart Beattie, Michael Brandt, and Derek Haas with elements of the 1957 adapted script by Halstead Welles for Delmer Daves' version of the film. The film explores the world of temptation as a farmer and a criminal try to outwit each other. Starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Gretchen Mol, Logan Lerman, Alan Tudyk, Ben Foster, Vinessa Shaw, Dallas Roberts, and Peter Fonda. 3:10 to Yuma is a sprawling yet adventurous film from James Mangold.

The film explores a rancher named Dan Evans (Christian Bale) whose life hasn't been great as his ranch is suffering from a drought while he's in debt as well as getting threatened by a man named Hollander (Lennie Lofton) who wants Evans' land for the railroad. When the criminal known as Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) has been captured after stealing money from the railroad barron Grayson Butterfield (Dallad Roberts), Evans volunteers to help the Pinkerton officer Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda) to accompany Wade to the prison train to Yuma along with Doc Potter (Alan Tudyk), Butterfield, and Evans' 14-year old son William (Logan Lerman). Yet, the party is being pursued by Wade's right-hand man Charlie Prince (Ben Foster)and the rest of Wade's gang as a battle of wits emerge between Evans and Wade about what to do where Wade tempts Evans into helping him while Wade isn't sure if he can take Wade's offer.

The original film version of 3:10 to Yuma was essentially a western that was part character-study, part suspense where it's about these two men trying to play a game of wits in seeing how far they'll go in dealing with their own morals. Director James Mangold, obviously a fan of the original, doesn't tinker with the film's old formulas very much. Instead, he helps expand the story, add a few new characters, and take the western genre back to form with some new methods. The film's script that was written by Stuart Beattie, Michael Brandt, and Derek Haas definitely brings back some of the original dialogue that was written by the film's original scribe Halstead Wells. What is very surprising is that the dialogue that is used again manages to be as relevant as it was heard back in the original 1957 version.

The script also works as a device of character study where it's really about both Ben Wade and Dan Evans. Wade, a sadistic man who can be very charming and witty while is also a ruthless killer who is even willing to kill one of his own men for gain. Yet, part of his redeeming qualities is how he reminds someone like William that he's not a good man despite the growth of respect he has for Dan for his bravey. Dan Evans is just as complex as a man who is forced to swallow a lot of his pride in order to maintain the survival of his family. Yet, he too has a dark side that he doesn't like to show that Wade manages to discover. What's surprising is that both men have similar morals, characteristics, and pride. It's where the film's script succeeds in.

The direction of James Mangold is very solid throughout the entire film in how he maintains the faithfulness to the original film. While the female characters like Alice Evans (Gretchen Mol) and Emmy (Vinessa Shaw) aren't as big as they were in the original film, they still play to what's expected in the plot. More importantly, the plot is expanded where the original film is 95 minutes and this version adding thirty more. While the violence and language is more confrontational in the original, it's definitely because Mangold adds elements of directors like Sergio Leone and in a lesser extent, Sam Peckinpah. There, he still manages to bring that quality that is expected in the genre in terms of the idea of men running lose, doing wild things, shootouts, and such. One complaint that might be understandable in comparison to the original film is the ending.

Probably because of what Mangold is trying to convey in terms of where the genre was then and now. It might work on some aspects but might not work with some audiences. Still, Mangold brings the genre right back to its essential that makes not just purists satisfied but also people new to the genre to be excited about.

Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael brings a wonderful look to the film with its gorgeous, epic-like photography with the film's inspiring location shot in New Mexico. The film's nighttime scenes from the outside with the blue sky is mesmerizing as is some of the daylight exteriors that manages to maintain its grittiness. It's definitely a highlight of the film. The location in New Mexico and with a $50 million budget definitely gives the production with the saloons, farms, and towns created by production designer Andrew Menzies and art directors Greg Berry and Jay Hart a look that is authentic and a reminder of what was great in that genre.

Costume designer Ariane Phillips definitely create some nice suits for Dallas Roberts while the cowboy clothing for the rest of the actors maintains its grittiness. The makeup also works since a lot of them wear beards or a mustache whether it's the clean, handlebar mustache look Roberts have to the dirtier, grimy look that both Ben Foster and Peter Fonda have.

Editor Michael McCusker definitely goes against the current fast-cut, fast-paced editing style of today's films that would've hurt this film. Instead, he goes for a more traditional, intense style that manages to keep the film's pacing while the action is definitely attentive for the audience. During the more suspenseful moments, the cuts are definitely slow but engaging to maintain the tension between the main characters. Sound editor Donald Sylvester also adds atmosphere by using the sounds of the wind, horses, whistles, and such to play true to the film and its genre in terms of its suspense.  Music composer Marco Beltrami adds a bit of symphonic orchestra to the genre but uses it in a low-key approach with the rest of the score performed on acoustic guitars and string instruments to play to that old-school atmosphere of the western.

Finally, there's the film's cast and what a hell of a cast does it have. Smaller performances from the likes of Sean Hennigan as the Contention City marshal, Rio Alexander and Johnny Whitworth as two of Wade's men, Forest Fyre, Luce Rains, and a un-credited cameo from Luke Wilson who gives a great performance as one of Boles' posse. Benjamin Petry is good as the little Mark Evans who has a great line that comes from the original film while Lennie Lofton is sleazy as the land-grabbing Hollander. Vinessa Shaw, playing the Felicia Farr role, is good as the sexy Emmy who is charmed by Wade. Kevin Durand is funny as the annoying Tucker, who manages to hate both Wade and Evans for different reasons while having a scene where he sings a song that angers Wade.

Alan Tudyk of Firefly/Serenity fame manages to give an excellent, yet funny performance as Doc Potter who manages to have some funny one-liners while admitting to not carrying a gun very much. Gretchen Mol is wonderful as the caring Alice Evans who loves Dan but also despises him a bit for his choices as she tries to maintain the household. Mol, who shows a more hardened maturity than in previous roles, is only a few scenes which is a shame since her performance really stands out by not playing a conventional farmer's wife.

Dallas Roberts from Walk the Line is great as the money-hungry Butterfield who thinks he has control only to realize that money can't buy everything while eventually becoming a tool for Evans' own pursuits. Logan Lerman is excellent as William Evans, a boy who seems to idolize Wade while losing respect for his own father. His development in the film is handled very realistically as he learns about sacrifice and why his father makes choices that sometimes aren&#146t right as he plays the character with maturity and energy.

Peter Fonda is brilliant in his small but mesmerizing role as the old, gruff Byron McElroy who manages to have a lot of hatred for Wade as Fonda's exchanges with Crowe are just fun to watch. Fonda, who has done westerns in the past, manages to bring that old school attitude that shows he's been there before and his performance is truly memorable that even his late, legendary father Henry would've been proud. Ben Foster is the film's sole scene-stealer as the psychotic Charlie Prince. Foster, sporting a beard and marks around his eyes, is a force that has to be seen where though he's a more sadistic, traditional villain. He has his loyalties and wit as he tries to save the man he's admired so much. It's a great performance from the young actor who proves he can act with the likes of Fonda, Crowe, and Bale.

Christian Bale gives one of his best performances as the troubled, prideful Dan Evans who was played by Van Heflin fifty years before. Bale's intense, layered performance shows the actor bringing a subtlety and grit that isn't seen very often but only expanding his range following his work in recent years. Though his character doesn't have a lot of humor, he still manages to have some wit and charm while maintaining his own stance against someone like Russell Crowe. Russell Crowe, in the role of Ben Wade that was played by Glenn Ford, is brilliant. Though Crowe didn't manage to play a great western character in Sam Raimi's The Quick & the Dead, this film proves he was born to be in a western.

Crowe's mix of charm, sadism, and antagonist attitude proves to be right as he plays the Wade character to the hilt. More importantly, he makes the audience to either love or hate him in whatever he's doing. The comradery between two great actors like Crowe and Bale are just amazing to watch and what's really great to see in those performances is how much fun they're having. Bottom line, both Crowe and Bale bring the kind of performances that purists of the genre will surely love.

The 20007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma is a marvelous film from James Mangold thanks to its cast led by Christian Bale and Russell Crowe as well as its devotion to pay true to the western genre. The film isn't just a faithful remake to Delmer Daves' 1957 film but also ensures the vitality of the western genre as both films would make a great double-feature. In the end, 3:10 to Yuma is an exciting and enthralling film from James Mangold.

© thevoid99 2013

3 comments:

Chris said...

One of the best contemporary westerns I've seen. I was never bored even though the running time is 2h, the pacing of this western is excellent.
Glad you liked it, the performances by Bale and Crowe impressed me too.

ruth said...

Great, in-depth review! I love this movie even though I'm generally not a Western fan. Bale & Crowe are excellent, but agree that Ben Foster is the film's scene-stealer! Nice to see Alan Tudyk too, he needs to be in more movies!

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-It was a fun western and certainly paid true to the genre. I also liked the scenes between Bale and Crowe where it's obvious they're having fun.

@ruth-Thank you. Ben Foster and Alan Tudyk were standouts and I'm glad they got the chance to give performances and not be overshadowed by the leads.