I have a lot of time for westerns. They present the moviegoer with a heady mix of gritty characterisation, action-driven narratives and a frontier setting that has achieved near mythic status. The genre provides ample room for experimentation and fresh interpretations. At the same time, the clichés are still fun: westerns, for example, often revolve around a savage crime and the pursuit of criminals by the law.
3:10 to Yuma was a recent and enjoyable rewatch. It is a remake of the 1957 movie of the same name – both adapting a short story by legendary crime writer Elmore Leonard. Desperate to keep his land and live up to his family’s expectations, struggling rancher and Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale) signs up to escort captured outlaw Ben Wade (Russel Crowe) to the town of Contention and put him on the eponymous train – the 3:10 to Yuma Territorial Prison. Wade’s gang, led by trusted lieutenant Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) are mercilessly intent on not letting that happen.
This set up makes for a surprisingly tense two hours under the direction of James Mangold. The stakes feel personal, and the set-pieces are inventive. Foster is cold and deadly, while Crowe and Bale have an easy chemistry as cunning prisoner and doom-laden escort. Alan Tudyk and Dallas Roberts are also very watchable, as well as a scene-stealing Peter Fonda as a grizzled Pinkerton. It’s a good film that got lost in a host of other enjoyable movies at the time of its release. The involvement of Bale, Crowe and Mangold alone, however, justifies a viewing.