Fight Film Friday: 3:10 to Yuma

Posted: November 6, 2010 in fight film friday
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3:10 to Yuma

USA, 2007

Genre: Action, Drama, Western

122 minutes

Christian Bale stars as a desperate rancher who takes the job to escort the captured outlaw Ben Wade to the waiting train.

Without a doubt, 3:10 to Yuma is my favorite Western movie. It’s incredibly well-written and paced, and makes a point to subvert a lot of the romantic impressions we have of the genre. With a solid budget of 50 million dollars, director James Mangold made sure to pull out all the stops in bringing the story to life. Every shot is beautifully lit and composed, although the frequent use of handheld cameras might be a bit dizzying for some. The details of the costumes and sets feel incredibly genuine, and though some better history buffs will be able to point out anachronisms, the sense of scope and the hard lives of the characters come across clearly. The score is deep and powerful, and is suitably held back when the actors need to put their work in. As a piece of film, it’s apparent that Mangold really put the appropriate time, effort, and resources into crafting this work.

Boasting an incredible cast, the script really allowed the stars to shine on screen. Christian Bale’s trademark aura of unbreakable fortitude is on full display, and delivers an incredibly moving performance through the whole movie. But, for all his amazing talent, it’s Russel Crowe as Ben Wade that really steals the show. Profoundly layered and nuanced, Crowe’s outlaw is an amazing character study, seemingly complex yet terrifyingly simple. The supporting cast does an impressive job as well, in particular Ben Foster as Wade’s second-in-command Charlie Prince. Ruthless, cunning, and dangerously loyal, he embodies the type of strange characters that Westerns are famous for. Based on the short story of the same name, the team of writers really expanded on the source material, creating a whole universe to support and elaborate on the original story and first film adaptation. They made a Western that’s raw and genuine, yet with enough flavor and charm to keep you engaged the whole time.

Like the rest of the movie, the action has very few fancy tricks or unnecessary flash. The gun fights are generally quick and dirty, adding to the sense of realism and grit brought to the table. Every engagement is a struggle for survival, and the cinematography really reflects that do-or-die sense of impact. It’s not a bloodbath either; while the film isn’t shy to use it when needed, there’s no need to push it over the top. The climax does start to wade into action-movie-shootout territory, but not excessively so. 3:10 to Yuma is a rude awakening from cheesy action films, and there’s a feeling of harsh reality that is very rarely seen. It’s brutal and unforgiving, just like the wild western territories it represents.

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