It’s the old west, after the Civil War. Dan Evans is a struggling rancher who’s lost his leg in the war (and now wears a prosthetic) and is losing the respect of his sons and his wife as he’s watching his ranch being taken from him over a debt he owes. Ben Wade is the leader of a vicious gang of killers who as we see them are attempting the robbery of a Pinkerton delivered money run. Their paths intersect as Dan is taking his sons into the town of Bisbee to try to settle what has happened to him. Dan and his sons see the outcome of the Pinkerton robbery and luckily get away from Wade and his gang only at Wade’s mercy. As the Wade mob moves into Bisbee, they send the sheriff there on a wild goose chase as to where their really at and then split their money and part ways. Again, Dan Evans comes back into contact with Wade, helping to ambush him, and have him captured. One of Wade’s mob sees this happen and rides off to get the rest of the gang to free Wade, and Dan signs on to with the remaining Pinkertons to deliver Ben Wade to justice by getting him on the 3:10 to Yuma train in the town of Contention.
And that’s the basic start of the new film from director James Mangold, 3:10 To Yuma, a remake of a western that I’ve never seen before, so this is new to me anyway. Though the way I understand it, this new movie, in the eyes of most critics is far better than the original and about a half hour longer too. For the most part, I think this is a pretty terrific film, but in it’s final moments it falls apart for me anyway, but I’ll get to that shortly in a spoiler section.
Mangold, who also gave us the excellent Cop Land is sort of on familiar ground again with this story. And he does a great job of setting things up, in particular with Dan Evans and his family. I think starting with Ben Wade, he does a nice job of setting him up as this undoubtedly dastardly rogue who uses his own charisma to get into the heads of his captors, but at it’s end, Wade takes a turn that at least to me doesn’t seem right, and as such didn’t sit well with me. But I’ll tell you, from what I could tell, with four of us there to see this together, I was the only one that it didn’t sit well with, and you may very well feel differently about it.
Where it doesn’t work for me is an alliance made between Dan and Ben at the very end to get Ben on the train. Although Ben’s gang gets into Contention, going through their own travails on the road to get there, and they’re ready to free him, Ben has taken a turn to want to give in to Dan’s desires to make himself a hero for his family, and let him turn him in, even saying that he will escape from Yuma, as he’s done so in the past. Dan gets shot down by Ben’s gang, right as he gets him on the train and then immediately Ben turns on his own gang, who has followed him in to rescue him and shoots them all down in cold blood, all in front of the eyes of Dan’s oldest son. There’s a point where Dan’s son has a gun right on Ben at the end, and has the opportunity to take him right out (which is what I think should’ve happened), but instead, Ben still turns himself in, gets on the train, and as the train departs, Ben gives out a whistle for his horse to come following, as though this sadistic killer will escape within minutes of the train leaving. I honestly thought that this man should’ve had to pay for his crimes by the end, because we are lead to believe that he’s committed some pretty horrible ones, but instead, through this one rancher, in all of these crimes, he’s now found “honor” of a sorts, and that makes it all right- again, your own mileage may vary with this- it didn’t work for me, but I’m a definite minority when it comes to that as well.
Mangold’s got a hell of a cast here, Christian Bale is Dan Evans and Russell Crowe is Ben Wade, and both do a great job with the material that in front of them (I just don’t agree with the end of that material). they’re backed up with some great supporting talent including Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk, Gretchen Mol, and Ben Foster (Foster’s really good here as Charlie Prince, Wade’s second in his gang– Foster’s one of these guys who’s fun to watch in everything he does, and he’s a far cry away here from the character that he played in The X-Men, The Angel).
Mangold’s movie does look great though (and we saw it in digital projection), it sounds great and as I said, building towards it’s end, it’s a terrific film. I just don’t agree with it’s ending, but then that’s me too, and I’m in a definite minority with that opinion. You very well may enjoy it, and I certainly well give this a second look down the road on DVD…