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3:10 To Yuma

Russell Crowe in 3:10 To Yuma

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TEN years ago James Mangold helped Sylvester Stallone deliver the performance of his career in Copland, a contemporary Western that ended with a classically staged gunfight.

Now that the director has finally saddled up for a proper Western, it should come as no surprise to find that he’s delivered a bit of a classic.

3:10 To Yuma, a remake of the 1957 Delmer Daves two-hander starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, is a richly satisfying effort that – for once – surpasses the achievements of the original.

Mangold may have stretched the concept to include some big action sequences but it’s still basically a battle of wits between two very different men that relies on performance over firepower.

One of these men is notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), a ruthless robber with a quick shooting policy; the other is Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a penniless rancher struggling to provide for his family and maintain a faltering reputation with his son.

When Wade is caught celebrating his latest theft, Evans enlists in the posse that’s assembled to escort him to the nearby town of Contention, from where the 3:10 train to Yuma prison will arrive.

But with the outlaw’s own crew (led by the psychotic Ben Foster) in hot pursuit, the posse’s prospects of surviving the trip grow shorter by the minute.

3:10 To Yuma is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard that in itself relies on a lot of classic Western conventions – from the steadfast, High Noon-style hero who faces overwhelming odds to the charismatic villain who isn’t beyond redemption.

Yet it somehow manages to avoid seeming formulaic because of the relish with which Mangold directs and the magnetism of its top-drawer cast.

Crowe and Bale are excellent as the opposites who come to admire and even respect each other and several of the one on one scenes between them are as electrifying as any of the gunfights. Crowe has the showier of the roles, and manages to make Wade a complex anti-hero, but Bale is just as compelling as a quiet man who is eventually forced to make a stand.

There’s strong support, too, from the likes of Henry Fonda (doing his best Clint Eastwood impression), Ben Foster (as a killer even more ruthless than Wade) and Alan Tudyk, as an unlikely posse member – not to mention Luke Wilson, whose extended cameo doesn’t feel as out of place as it sounds. Logan Lerman even shines as Dan’s son, managing to stay on the right side of precocious.

Mangold also makes excellent use of location, lending the film a barren, dusty backdrop early on as though to emphasize his characters’ desperation, and then adding some snow to accentuate the breathing of the protagonists during the exciting final gunfight.

He even delivers a memorable ending (just as he did with Copland) that ensures the movie remains with you long after the shooting has stopped.

If early reports are true and this is to mark the revival of the Western as well as the start of the awards season contenders (Brad Pitt’s The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford is still to come), then 3:10 To Yuma has set a very high standard for others to follow.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 117mins
DVD Release Date: January 28, 2008