07 August 2009

Flashback Friday-3:10 to Yuma

Infamous Outlaw Ben Wade and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans volunteers to deliver him alive to the "3:10 to Yuma," a train that will take the killer to trial. But with Wade's outfit on their trail-and dangers at every turn-the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man's destiny.--------from the back of the DVD case.

While it was really great to see a shoot'em up in the classical western form, several glaring flaws in the plot and character development really took away from what could have been a film that re-introduces the genre as a vehicle for great acting performances, film auteurism, and box office sucess. For the purposes of this review, the original 3:10 To Yuma from 1957 will be ignored in order judge this film.

To begin, the film looks really good. The sets, costumes, and backgrounds of Arizona canyons look absolutely real. I for one, would have played up the scenery with more wide shots of the surrounding nature in order to give more perspective regardingIf the relationships of important parts of the film (Dan Evan's ranch to the town of Bigsby, How the pass through Apache territory would save time, how far from the hotel to the railroad).

The relationship between Wade (Russel Crowe) and Dan Evans (Christian Bale) along with several members of his family is sufficiently interesting to keep one's attention throughout the entirety of the film. The two go round after round examining each other's reasons for making the choices that they have made; Wade for becoming a murderer and stagecoach robber, Evans for accepting $200 to become a part of the posse that takes Wade to the train that will take him to prison. If the film had been made up entirely of this relationship, punctuated with running gun battles, the film would have been much improved. By the way, the gun battles involved are typical western fare, and yet, quite exciting, especially when the stagecoach defends itself with a gatling gun. In this same vein, the film was at its best for only a few seconds. (spoiler warning) These were the moments when Wade shoots members of his own outfit. They are totally unexpected, and the camera focuses on the violence for just a second longer than the viewer expects. These scenes really make the film.

On the other hand, the plot really doesn't do a lot of justice to this kind of story and these kinds of actors. Four flaws, which deal primarily with the plot of the film, really bring this film down. First, I have no idea why the Hollanders burn down Dan Evans's barn. If they wanted him off the land so badly, there were a number of more subtle things that they could have done in order to necessitate his departure. Second, as much as I am for gratuitous sex and violence, some of it within this film takes away from the story. Wade's tryst with Emmy Nelson serves only to provide the filmmakers an excuse for why he was caught. After shooting one of his gang members for "weakness" it doesn't make any sense for him to be caught for an even more blatant discretion. Along the lines of gratuitous violence, Bryan Mcelroy (Peter Fonda) has no real function other than to be hit, shot, kicked, and then thrown over a cliff, without the downshot depicting the dead man at the bottom which we have all come to know and love. You could also throw the entire sections involving the Apache Indians into this category of unnecessary. Finally, at the end of the film, Ben changes his character completely, deciding to board the train, only to communicate that it is no real sacrifice to do so. This change, like the previously mentioned portions, does not have sufficient reason. The filmmakers here do not provide the necessary foreshadowing necessary in order to portray changes of this type. For this reason, the lack of evidence on all fronts, the film fails to become a great film, though it is quite entertaining at times.

URBAN: Recommended

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