It's been a long wait for the remake of 3:10 to Yuma to finally reach our cinemas. In fact, the Code 1 DVD is already out, and I thought it was probably missed opportunity if there are interested folks out there who decide to get the DVD instead of catching it on the big screen. I do not understand why the need for the delay, contrary to the belief that it is a Western movie which might be an unpopular genre to go into, and of course, I can only recall a handful which made it to cinemas here in recent times - Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven, Tombstone and Wyatt Earp - the last 2 being movies about the legendary lawman and the shootout at OK Corral.
Some 50 years ago, audiences were introduced to the duo of impoverished rancher Dan Evans (then played by Van Heflin) and the number one outlaw of the land, Ben Wade (Glenn Ford). As the story goes, Evans has to feed a family and the poor harvest and weather aren't doing him any favours. As Wade gets captured, volunteers are immediately called for to escort him to the town of Contention, to put him onboard the 3:10 train to Yuma jail, hence the title. Two powerful actors have now taken over the mantle of the 2 rivals, namely Russell Crowe (who's having a comeback of sorts to our screens with the recently released American Gangster), and Christian Bale in respective roles. And unlike American Gangster which had again 2 high profile actors sharing top billing, Bale and Crowe share a lot of screentime together, thus boosting the appeal of the remake.
Even for those who have seen the original movie, I am glad to say that on the whole, this version ranks far superior than the original version. The earlier version, being made half century ago, will definitely need a decent update for modern audiences, and that aspect did not disappoint, with more in-depth character development, and exciting shootouts. However, in my opinion, the ending of the original packed far more a punch that this one, given that the ending in the 2007 version is likely to be more in line with stories these days - the cynical, non-saccharine sweet ending.
If it followed the original closely, then most audiences would have found it trying as most of the movie took place in a hotel room where the duo are waiting for the awaited time to make a run for the train station. Here, director James Mangold and scribes Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas decided to boost the middle section with a detour to Apache land and encountering railroad builders (check out Luke Wilson!), presenting again more threats to the group escorting Ben Wade. Also, Ben Wade is presented in a more manacing manner, constantly probing the group and looking for opportunities to make his escape, rather than the rather subdued original which didn't exhibit any notion of danger. What I also found to be a leg up, was the swapping of importance between Evan's wife Alice (Gretchen Mol) and his son William (Logan Lerman), which eliminated a rather awkward moment in the original where Alice paid Dan a visit whilst holed up in the hotel room. The structure and development otherwise remained about the same, and even some lines from the classic were reused in this remake, in particular in the first half of the movie.
Character wise, you can't get any more better than having Crowe and Bale flesh out their characters and giving both a sense of angst, who on a better day, could probably have been good friends. You follow them as the duo gain newfound respect for each other, and the longer running time provided ample chances for the audience to find reason to connect, and understand the characters at a deeper level. Ben Wade was given time to show that he isn't all bad, despite what he tells others and from what he had done to gain his notorious reputation, and in Dan Evans, he finds the kind of life that he yearns for - beautiful wife and family, with sons who look up to the dad - but will probably never get, unless you count the mercenary hoodlums as family (Ben Foster in a truly badass role). And from Evans, learning his true motivations for this suicidal job, could have made any grownup feel sorry, while he exhibits his admirable work ethics in the face of temptation, to just get the job done, to put food on the table for his family, and teaching his sons as well that it's not the size, calibre or speed of the gun that matters, but principles.
3:10 to Yuma deserves to be watched on the big screen, and given limited screenings and the crowding of movies this month, do make time for it. It's a perfect balance for those looking for mean gunfights, and powerful drama, and this remake delivers it all where it should matter - adopting the best bits in the original, and plugging the gaps when those portions falter. Highly recommended, even if you're not a fan of the Western genre!