2007 is seeing the return of the western to the big screen. It is a genre that has not had much play over the past few years, seemingly supplanted by the superhero genre. There was a time, decades past, that the western was a staple of the big screen. They featured big stars like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Glenn Ford, Clint Eastwood. In more recent years we have had westerns starring the likes of Clint Eastwood (in an Oscar-winning return to the genre), Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Kurt Russell, and now Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Russell Crowe, and Christian Bale. Later this season will see the debut of a new Jesse James film with Pitt in the title role, but before we can get there, we have the small matter of 3:10 to Yuma to deal with.
In 1957 the Elmore Leonard short story was turned into a big screen adventure starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford. I have not seen the film, but have heard that it was good, a judgment that I hope to assess for myself at some point. So, not having seen the original I encountered the remake without the potential baggage. Knowing that it is a remake, I was intrigued by the lack of outcry against it among the websites that I visit. It is curious to note that the movies that have the biggest hurdle to overcome when considering a remake are horror films and well regarded classics. Why is that? Is it because horror genre fans are that much more attached to their favorites? Could it be that films that are not already recognized by the majority as a classic are less susceptible to critical attention? Whatever the case, 3:10 to Yuma has arrived unscathed by the masses decrying its very creation. Rather, it delivers a first rate film carried to excellence by the performances of the two leads.
The center of 3:10 to Yuma is shared by two men. On one side is the troubled family man Dan Evans (Christian Bale) and on the other is famed bad guy Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). The story begins with Evans, a man who lost his leg in the Civil War and is struggling to make ends meet on his farm. He is trying to make the best life possible for his wife and two sons, but drought and debt are quickly backing him up against a wall. His wife worries about what they are going to do and seemingly has little faith in him, while his sons have differing opinions. His youngest, Mark (Benjamin Petry), looks up to him, while teenager William (Logan Lerman) wants his father to be a man of action like the outlaw Ben Wade whom he reads about in dime store novels.