Friday, September 07, 2007

3:10 to Yuma Movie Review

Movie Review
3:10 to Yuma
By LeeAnn Sharpe

A 20 something friend told me he had been to the movie theatre the night before and there were these really long lines waiting to get in to see “3:10 to Yuma”. He noticed the average age of those standing in line was mostly 40 and over. He asked, “Why is that generation so into westerns?” I thought about it and the answer seemed simple. We all go back to our comfort zone to feel good. The baby boomer generation grew up with westerns and continues to hold them dear.

They say the western movie market is making a resurgence evidenced by HBO’s “Deadwood” TV series, setting the bar for the modern western with over the edge, in your face, muddy smutty reality attracting the younger generation. But thinking about what my friend said, I think it’s mainly the tail end of the baby boomer generation holding on to their Saturday morning love affair with Gene and Roy, albeit grown up and doing all those naughty adult things we never even imagined back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Movies like “Brokeback Mountain” pushed the envelope even further. But maybe there is more to it. Maybe the western is just a good vehicle to tell a compelling story about life.

There are a few new westerns coming out this year with big name stars. "3:10 to Yuma, "with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, with Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as Robert Ford coming out Sept. 21st, and "No Country For Old Men" with Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson coming out Nov. 21st.

“Experts” say the western reappears in a cycle resurfacing every 7 to 10 years. But I think westerns have always been with us in some shape or form. They may go hi-tech like “Wild Wild West” or dive into comedy like “Shanghai Knights”. But they are always with us. Just look at the Tombstone movies. There has been a retelling of that story at least twice a decade since the teens.

“One of the reasons I started the Wild West Gazette newspaper is recent interest in the old west. Every western state in the union is in the process of celebrating their 100th anniversary. They see the need to preserve their history and tell the stories,” says Sid Hagel, Publisher of Wild West Gazette ( “People love hearing the story of how their ancestors survived tremendous hardship to settle the west.”

The reviews were saying that "3:10 to Yuma," a remake of a 1957 film starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, based on an Elmore Leonard story first published in Dime Western Magazine in 1953, was the best western since “Unforgiven”. Leonard is a prolific writer of gritty realism and strong dialogue with a long list of westerns to his credit including “Last Stand at Saber River” and “Hombre” both made into hit movies. “3:10 to Yuma” is an excellent good versus evil story.

Director James Mangold of "Walk the Line" fame, says he wanted to make "a film that didn't look like a video game." He incorporated more dirt and violence along with new characters including the psycho to kick it up a notch. "Most great Westerns are more psychological than action-oriented," Mangold says. "When you're talking about “Unforgiven” or “Shane” or “High Noon” I never feel like it's about the gunfights between those guys." Mangold was really thinking about the “Unforgiven” when he made this film giving it a similar dark palette and frequent close-ups.

Peter Fonda portrays a Pinkerton agent, another new character in the movie, who has been hunting Wade (Crowe) and gets shot during a stagecoach robbery. In a recent interview Fonda said, “You cannot take your eyes off the screen with this film, because it has such compelling characters and the violence is unbelievable.” Fonda seemed to homage Eastwood in this role with superior results.

All of the actors were superb. Either Mangold solicited excellent performances or the New Mexico air kicked them up a notch. They can all be proud of their part in this film. Mangold says the actors he picked are some of the best horsemen in Hollywood, “They are comfortable, alive on a horse and carry a sort of timeless masculinity”. And he figures they are among only a few in Hollywood who could carry it off.

Bale’s character Dan Evans is the good man who is attracted to the villan. He doesn’t want to be corrupted by a corrupt society. His conscious struggles with his decisions. There’s a battle of wills and clash of philosophies that makes their relationship tension into movie magic.

Crowe says he especially enjoyed playing Ben Wade, the bad man who is confident and cheerful. Crowe took the attitude Ben doesn’t believe in a benevolent God, got stuck in the Old Testament. One line he’s told “You’re not all bad” and he responds “Yes I am” kind of sums him up.

And about the ages viewing the movie that I started this article discussing, well maybe it was just an off night, because on Friday there were plenty of younger 20-30 something folks there. And everyone really liked this film. Rated R for language and violence. Lionsgate 120 minutes. I give it 5 stars! * * * * *


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