On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, 3:10 to Yuma is a gritty, galloping 8, an authentic Western with cynical, contemporary touches.
No one knows how many thousands of Westerns have been made, but the first notable one was The Great Train Robbery in 1903. Since then, weve watched Westerns for more years than there was a Wild West, since theyre usually set in the years between the conclusion of the Civil War and the end of the 19th century.
James Mangolds re-make of Delmer Daves 1957 anti-hero redemption saga revolves around the psychological conflict between a crippled, courageous rancher, Dan Evans (Christian Bale), and a notorious killer, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). After suffering a period of draught and subsequent debt, Evans family is awakened one night to discover their barn burning and small herd of cattle rustled, subsequently serving as a stampede diversion for a stagecoach robbery. That sets up his first encounter with Ben Wade but far from his last.
Writers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas have added to Elmore Leonards story and Halsted Welles original script, making it more violent, cynical and brutal with the clock-ticking convention of High Noon and Rio Bravo and an enigmatic conclusion. James Mangold (Walk the Line) keeps the tension taut as Evans is grimly determined to deposit Wade on the 3:10 train to Yuma prison.
Russell Crowes sophisticated, multi-dimensional sociopath anchors the story, while scowling Christian Bales seems weighted down with stoic, stubborn, idealistic virtue. Or perhaps its just his choice to underplay. As Wades dastardly accomplice, Ben Foster scores, and Peter Fonda is memorable as a corrupt bounty hunter. On the other hand, the frontier women (Gretchen Mol, Vinessa Shaw) are too creamed and coiffed to be even remotely believable.