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Movie Review: 3:10 to Yuma

3:10 to Yuma
Directed by James Mangold
Written by Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt, and Derek Haas based on the short story by Elmore Leonard

After watching 3:10 to Yuma I was mulling over how in the world to review it.  After all, I had been entertained through most of the picture until an ending I found to be complete nonsense looked to destroy what the film had built up leading to it.  After sleeping on it for a bit, I’ve come to the conclusion that the ending isn’t a total disaster, but it certainly could have been constructed better.  I don’t think on a second viewing the ending is going to make much more sense.

In this second version of Elmore Leonard’s short story, family man Dan Evans (Christian Bale) has just seen his cattle let loose after an arsonist’s fire.  Along with his older son William (Logan Lerman) and younger son Mark (Benjamin Petry), he aims to track down his cattle and complain to his landlord Hollander (Lennie Loftin) about the message.  Evans stumbles on a stagecoach robbery led by famous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe).  Wade allows Evans and his sons to live as long as they let go of their horses.

The robbery raises the ire of Bisbee resident Grayson Butterfield (Dallas Roberts), a wealthy man who has been robbed by Wade many times.  When Evans enters the town of Bisbee to futilely plead with his landlord Hollander, he stumbles into an opportunity to make some cash (and win the respect of his wife and kids) by catching Wade and escorting him on his way to Yuma prison.  Wade makes a dumb mistake by staying around the town and bedding down a pretty bartender (Vinessa Shaw).  He is easily caught, and Evans, along with Butterfield, a veterinarian named Potter (Alan Tudyk), and Hollander’s muscle, Tucker (Kevin Durand), try to finish the job.

But Wade’s gang, now led by his second-in-command Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), looks to break him from his capture.  So they search, killing people who get in their way.  Evans is in over his head, but feels it has to be done in order to save his family and return to his wife (Grechen Mol) and kids as a hero.  With his financial troubles and easygoing manner, he has begun to lose their respect.

This journey is exciting, and the characterizations are richer here than the 1957 original.  Russell Crowe is always good, and here he has a meaty character: a rotten outlaw who can seduce anyone with words, making people believe that he’s got good in him.  And he teams with Christian Bale, who has become the new highly respected actor on the block.  I really like Bale.  I have a man-crush on the guy.  He’s been around for 20 years since Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun and he’s steadily built himself up to the A-list.  Ben Foster also emerges as a guy you want to watch; he plays Wade’s number two with vigor.

So about that ending, which I will not spoil.  The movie takes careful pains to set up Wade’s character.  And it plants seeds as to how Wade might act during a certain situation.  From a complex standpoint, the ending makes sense on a certain level but I don’t feel like the movie ever entered even in a subconscious way that the events that unfold could happen.  And even if you concede that it makes sense, it brings up questions that I’m still having a hard time answering.

Maybe this is the best type of movie, to have a discussion by the end of it, an argument over whether the filmmakers made the right choice.  The more I write about it, the more I think of it, the better the ending seems.  I think what I’m trying to say is, go see it and decide for yourself.  It’s certainly, at the very least, worth a look.

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