El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

3:10 TO YUMA (2007)

What rules the universe: order or chaos? Is there a plan set forth by a supreme being or are we all making it up as we go? How do your answers affect the way you live your life? Are you bound by the rules agreed to by society or do you instead choose to do what’s best for you? And does that change when life treats you unfairly? Director James Mangold deals with thought-provoking ideas in this update of the 1957 western based on Elmore Leonard’s short story.

Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a former Civil War soldier struggling to make a life for his family. He bought a ranch in Bisbee, AZ with the money he received after being badly wounded in the leg, but his cows are dying due to a drought. He has to choose buying medicine for his youngest son over paying the mortgage. That decision further proves to the property owner the land is worth more selling it to the railroad. The situation is grim and the doubt felt by his wife and oldest son, Will, weigh heavy on Evans’ shoulders.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) stands in sharp contrast to Evans as a man appearing in control of his fate rather than beaten down by it. He is a well-known outlaw responsible for many robberies and deaths. Yet, he is an appealing figure to some, including Will, who reads dime stores novels that tell Wild West tales similar to ones Wade has lived, because he is smart, resourceful, and charismatic.

After the latest of many heists of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s payroll, Wade and his men celebrate in Bisbee. The gang takes off, leaving Wade behind to enjoy some female companionship for the night. With his confidence high and his guard down, the local sheriff captures Wade the next morning. He needs to be escorted to the town of Contention, three days away on horseback, so he can be put on the 3:10 train to Yuma where he will be tried and put in federal prison. The railroad offers a reward to any who help transport Wade, enough in wages to save Evans’ farm. The money is so high because Wade’s men will kill to get him back. Evans decides to take the risk because it’s the only way to save his farm.

As they head towards Contention, Wade gets away only to be caught by men who act no different than he does. When Evans and the others catch up, they find Wade tied up and being electrocuted, receiving a punishment many feel he deserves: vengeance, Old Testament style. However, Evans and the others see this lawlessness no different than Wade’s and demand he is turned over.

In Contention, Wade’s men catch up. Not even the railroad man is willing to risk his life against the overwhelming odds. Similar to High Noon, Evans becomes the lone man to stand against the bad guys and is determined to bring Wade to justice. Wade tempts Evans with five times the amount of money the railroad offered and safe passage. Besides, he’s already escaped from Yuma before. Whose will and determination will win out?

The story of both men slowly unravels and is smartly revealed by the writers throughout the film. The two characters grow to respect each other as they and the audience learn more about what drove the choices they made and who they really are. They aren’t simply good guy and bad guy as they first appeared and could have ended in each other’s places if different decisions had been made.

Both men know The Bible. Wade quotes it, but has rejected the path suggested. Evans struggles with it, but ultimately believes. He is Christ-like and the film is filled with religious imagery throughout. That’s not to say the film proselytizes Christianity, but like many great stories, such as Cool Hand Luke and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, it uses the metaphor of the Christ myth to speak about the human condition. Wade takes the role of Lucifer with his “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” attitude, but he comes across like an avenging angel at times. Notice the people who receive punishment at his hands.

3:10 to Yuma (2007) tells a marvelous story that can be taken solely as a straightforward adventure film while also offering themes to explore and contemplate. The acting performances by all, especially the leads, are great to watch. Bale and Crowe are two of the best actors working today and they compliment each other well. All the crew departments excel in their roles, creating authenticity in all the scenes. It is the best film so far this year and deserves to be honored as such.

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At 8:01 PM , Anonymous Superfist said...

That's what I was hoping to hear. The trailer looked great and they had my money the instant you realize that Bale and Crowe are in a film together. Wait a minute...A WESTERN?! There is absolutely no way I can turn that down.

At 6:49 PM , Blogger Brennon said...

I have already seen the movie twice, and I am very much in agreeemt with your comments--except I do not see the Evans characer as a Christ figure--other than that he is willing to die to complete his mission. Instead, I see Evans as defined by his line: "I have been waiting around for three years on one leg waiting for God to do me a favor, and He is not listening. I think that the theme here is that Evans will have to earn what he gets.

I definitely see the Wade character as being something other than a man, but I am not sure that he represents Lucifer. He seems to be some sort of conflicted angelic being. After all, he carries a cursed gun named the "Hand of God." Wade also separates himself from his gang sufficiently to not be entirely tainted by their actions. He seems to only kill in response to some transgression by those he kills.

He is also different from other traditional western characters. He really does not seem to have any weaknesses or, strange to say, human vices. He rides a horse that is so different from any other horse in the movie as to appear virtually supernatural, and his aforementioned gun is affixed with a crucifix. However, he does not seem to derive his superior abilities from the gun or the horse. The gun and horse simply appear to be signs that Wade is different.

It appears to me that Wade seeks people who interest him but rarely intervenes directly in the course of things--other than to smite the wicked.

At 9:23 PM , Blogger El Bicho said...

Brennon, it wasn't just that Evans was willing to die. He was willing to die for Wade's sins so Wade could receive redemption.

Notice the imagery of Evans. By the end, he is bearded, bloody, had his foot been whole it would have been pierced. He even appears in the Bible

Wade is the opposite of Evans. Aside from his living by his own rules, his tempting of Evans reminded me of Lucifer as well.

I don't see that Wade separates himself from the gang. He oversees their actions, kills Charlie(?) for not noticing the man was alive, shares a drink with them. The only reason he didn't leave town with them was to stay with the lady.


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