3:10 to Yuma - Running a bit Late
| I like James Mangold, although he has yet to make a perfect movie. Copland and Girl Interrupted are both strong films with some serious flaws. Identity and Walk the Line are both very enjoyable and show a real trend towards his growth as a director. It is too bad, therefore, that 3:10 to Yuma shows him regressing back to him making seriously flawed films.
3:10 to Yuma, despite its flaws, is still a good movie. The plot is a great one, ripped from the Elmore Leonard short story and the Glenn Ford classic. A poor farmer (Christian Bale) gets to show what a decent man he is by stepping up to the plate to deliver the wicked bank robber (Russell Crowe) to the train to be taken off to jail. The battle of wills is spine tingling and the classic good vs. evil motif is exploited and there is plenty of time for some great shoot outs. Plus there is a young man watching his dad and becoming a man.
Maybe it is because there have been some great genre busting, post-modern westerns as of late that have weakened my taste for something much more traditional like this. 3:10 to Yuma does nothing to upset the applecart. This film only covers time-honoured, conventional western territory which is fine expect that the plot itself has some problems that it never overcomes. Maybe if it tried to be a little more innovative, the film may have transcended the plot holes, but the fact that it sticks to its guns means that it all feels a little trite.
The plot requires that many characters make stupid or irrational choices. If they don’t the story wouldn’t get us to where it needs to go. People choose to shoot at times they shouldn’t and choose not to at times they do. They wait for the dust to settle before acting. There are many moments when you just want to scream at the screen for them to get their act together.
This goes on throughout most of the picture but it’s the end that has most of the problem. Be warned, I have to talk about the ending to talk about what’s wrong with 3:10 to Yuma. The supposed villain has a change of heart, similar to that of the Grinch in his famous tale, and helps the hero deliver himself to the authorities. The film gives us a reason but it really doesn’t fly. The film never had the credibility to help the audience get there. Instead, we are just asked to swallow it. The film tries to set Crowe up in a manner that we see how he’s damaged and this is somehow redemptive but it doesn’t create this believably enough. Therefore the film feels week or cheap.
Still, once you get past that, 3:10 to Yuma is a fun ride and still worth seeing. Interestingly, unlike most westerns which thrive on their scenery, Yuma ignores the picturesque shots and doesn’t need to be seen on the big screen to be truly appreciated. This is a fun fluff piece and you just have to suspend your disbelief and wait for the next western and hope it is more complicated and well put together.