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MiraJeff Goes For A Ride On The 3:10 TO YUMA!!

"They're gonna hang me in the morning. Before the day is done. They're gonna hang me in the morning. I'll never see the sun."
Greetings AICN, MiraJeff here aboard the 3:10 to Yuma, the James Mangold-directed western starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe as opposite sides of the law. Now I've never seen the Delmer Daves original with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin but this solid remake makes me want to go back and catch up with it on Netflix. (In the interest of full disclosure, this review contains minor spoilers and I apologize for its length in advance.) Bale plays Dan Evans, a wounded Civil War veteran and family man. Mangold wastes no time setting up Dan's circumstances, thrusting us right into the middle of the action as his barn is burned to the ground because of an outstanding debt to some local moneymen. When Dan tells his family (including Gretchen Mol in the thankless wife role) that he'll "take care of it," his eldest son, Will, (Logan Lerman, looking like the child Ian Somerhalder and Christian Slater never had), replies, "no you won't," a telling line illustrating Dan's ineffectiveness and the existing tension between father and son, whose relationship, as I understand it, has been considerably more fleshed-out than in the original in order to feed the characters' motivations. Later, while riding horseback with his sons, Dan witnesses a daring robbery executed by a gang of murderous thieves led by Ben Wade (Crowe), a legendary outlaw whose vicious reputation precedes him. This very cool sequence, wherein the Wade gang ambushes some pinkertons riding with a lot of money on a horse-drawn wagon (the armored car of the Wild West), features some serious firepower despite the time period's limited weaponry. The attack is felt from every angle, with an all-seeing sniper hiding in the desert brush while Wade's right-hand man, Charlie Prince (an intense Ben Foster, in fine form), runs the ground operation. Ever the strong, silent-type leader, Wade opts to stand back and wait, his icy stare an effective means of communicating with his posse. Of course, there's more to Wade than there seems, as evidenced by his fondness for sketching birds and signing his drawings. But when it comes time to lead, Wade is never shy about his ruthlessness. In the aftermath of the robbery, one of Wade's men, played by Empire Records' Johnny Whitworth, does an inadequate job of checking to make sure that the pinkertons are dead, and Wade doesn't hesitate to shoot him on the spot. (Sidenote: Considering the careers that nearly everyone in Empire Records went on to enjoy, it's a bit sad to see Whitworth reduced to corpse duty.) Eventually Wade discovers that Dan and his children have witnessed the entire incident and the men exchange words while Will stares at Whitworth's gunshot wound, amazed by what a single bullet can do. Fearing for his family's safety, Dan can only watch as Wade steals his horses (which he later returns) and sets off with his gang to Bixby, where a not-so-innocent Charlie alerts the authorities to the robbery. They promptly leave to investigate, allowing Wade and Co. the chance to set up shop in town. While there, Wade seduces a barmaid (Vinessa Shaw) and lets his guard down in one of the film's only missteps. It's not long before Bale returns with the local cops who promptly capture Wade, pledging to bring him to justice by way of the 3:10 to Yuma. But first they have to find good, trustworthy men who will deliver Wade to the train station, men who won't be tempted to release the criminal for a hearty share of his loot. Unsurprisingly, Dan is the first to volunteer. While we know that the job offers a measly $100 payday and Dan needs as much money as he can get his hands on, it's obvious that his reasons for accepting the challenge are not purely financially motivated. There's a pride element involved, and though we feel like Dan has nothing to prove, having fought honorably for the North, we later learn that he isn't quite the hero we've thought him to be; His gimpy leg is a result of friendly fire suffered in the midst of a cowardly retreat, not a bravely earned badge of courage. En route to Contention, Dan and Wade run into an assortment of characters, one of whom is Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda), a big-mouth bounty hunter who Wade likens to a "song with one-note." Though Fonda proves he's still a shit-kicker during McElroy's one-sided physical encounter with Wade, it's Wade who gets the last laugh, a recurring theme in the film seeing as scene-stealer Kevin Durand also meets a grisly fate after taunting Wade with a haunting verse. Elsewhere, Alan Tudyk plays the requisite character named 'Doc,' only the joke is, he's a veterinarian. And in an inexplicable casting decision, Luke Wilson appears in an awkward and distracting cameo in which he's not even the leader of a trio that later captures Wade upon one of his several 'escapes.' As we should all know by now, 3:10 to Yuma's release was moved up a month to beat Brad Pitt's western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, into theaters. As such, it's one of the earliest 'prestige' pictures out of the gate, even though it really isn't that sort of material. This is a gritty, rugged genre picture. People are bound to see Bale and Crowe's names attached and start thinking about the film's award prospects, but as much as I really dug the film, I don't think it's really in contention for any Oscar nominations. Having starved himself to frightening proportions in not one but two movies, in addition to returning the Batman franchise to glory, there's no question that Bale is amongst the finest actors of his generation, but despite the respect as he commands from voters, he's more likely to be recognized for his work in Rescue Dawn than here. It's no surprise that Crowe impressed me the most given his body of work and the two Oscars he has to show for it, but while I think he belongs in the discussion for Best Supporting Actor, the Academy will probably view the role as more of a co-lead. And since the film is adapted from an Elmore Leonard short story by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, there's always an outside chance it could land an Adapted Screenplay nod. One of the script's strengths is its surprisingly wicked sense of humor, delivered with deadpan seriousness by Crowe and Foster. A joke about Wade's preference for green eyes made the critics in the screening I attended howl with laughter, while Foster's one-liner, "I hate posses," is worthy of t-shirt status in any cinephile's dresser. Credit must also be given to Marco Beltrami's fantastic score, although the unfinished version that was screened for critics had a temporary sound mix and also featured excerpts from Gustavo Santaolalla's Babel score. Snooty awards talk aside, Crowe's performance makes for one of the more charismatic movie villains in recent memory. As much as we're rooting for Dan to get Wade on that train, there was a part of me that wanted to see the two of them ride off into the sunset together. They share great chemistry on screen and personally I’d love to have seen them team up and go on a Butch and Sundance-type adventure together. Speaking of endings, I won't spoil anything other than to say that I've been told by older, wiser critics that the ending has been significantly altered, though there was no consensus on which outcome was preferred. Personally, I felt the ending was the weakest part of the film. The fairly generic shoot-'em-up climax (on a pretty fake-looking set) turns Foster into the Terminator and is filmed with a lousy sense of space in which you can't tell where any of the characters are in relation to each other, especially when you take into consideration how well the rest of the film is staged and choreographed. Variety's Todd McCarthy took the words right out of my mouth in writing about the ending-- "Qualms persist, as aspects of the physical action and psychological motivation remain murky and forced." I couldn’t have said it any better myself. I thought that throughout the film, and specifically the ending, Wade made things too easy on Dan. He has plenty of opportunities to get away, and when you factor in his reputation as a cold-blooded killer, it makes no sense that he didn't exploit Dan's situation and take advantage of his physical limitations and lack of allies. Perhaps that's because of Wade's unwavering faith that his posse will rescue him, but the other part of it became a believability issue for me. It's obvious that these men have an unspoken mutual respect for each other, and perhaps Wade was more reluctant to act because he was grew up an orphan and he doesn't want Will to end up like him, but in a life or death situation, I have to believe that Wade would show a little less conscience than he does. Of course, when all is said and done, 3:10 to Yuma is about wanting to leave behind a legacy and set an example for your kids. After he was injured, the government paid Dan for his bum leg so that they could walk away guilt-free. Wade makes a similar offer if Dan will let him go, but this time, he's smart enough to know better. The lesson Dan's trying to impart on Will is that you can't always walk away. Sometimes, you have to stand up for what is fair and what is right. In this case, Dan wants William to "remember your old man walked Ben Wade to that station when nobody else would." That's a hell of a legacy to leave behind and Wade, who has no flesh and blood to call his own, respects him all the more for it. And though Wade doesn't owe Dan a damn thing, maybe that's why he makes the decision that he does in the film's satisfying closing shot. At the end of the day, 3:10 to Yuma is a well-written, great-looking Western worth getting excited about, featuring a pair of solid performances from two top-notch actors doing what they do best; snarling like a couple of bad-asses. That'll do it for me, folks. I'll be back with a look at King of California, The Nines, Eastern Promises and In the Valley of Elah. 'Til next time time, this is MiraJeff signing off...

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:32 a.m. CST

    James Mangold sucks

    by Garbageman33

    I wish they'd switched directors and given this material to the guy who did The Assassination of Jesse James.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:35 a.m. CST

    But Crowe and Bale rock!

    by Coled Slawter

    So hopefully they will save it... But I hated that Liam/Brosnan excuse for a supposed Western. Was even a western? Whatever it was I hope this is as refreshing to the Western genre as Open Range was.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:37 a.m. CST

    If there's a message to the movie

    by Garbageman33

    You can bet Mangold will repeatedly beat you over the head with it.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:37 a.m. CST

    First!

    by bobster52

    I'll see it. I liked the original

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:37 a.m. CST

    Not first!

    by bobster52

    Who cares anyway!

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:55 a.m. CST

    mira

    by Quint

    I think the line that made me understand why Ben Wade doesn't do more to get away, especially at the end, is from Wade himself... when he tells Dan that this isn't the first time he's been to Yuma and had escaped something like 3 times before. Him going to Yuma wasn't any worse than him being held by Byron and the Railroad, so that explains why he goes out of his way to save Dan's life, especially when you consider the respect Wade has for him throughout the whole film. That's what I thought, anyway.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:55 a.m. CST

    Has anyone ever seen James Mangold and Edward Zwick

    by Garbageman33

    In the same room at the same time? I'm convinced they're the same guy.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:58 a.m. CST

    I'll see anything with Christian Bale in it

    by Charlie Murphy

    the man is ridiculously underrated. sure, he's fairly high profile now, what with being batman and all, but if you asked a hundred people what the best actor working today is, i bet not many people say christian bale. but they should. this cat can make any role kick ass. equilibrium, american psycho, the machinist, of course batman, the prestige, rescue dawn... christian bale is the shit.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:58 a.m. CST

    Quint, do you not have MiraJeff's email address?

    by Garbageman33

    Or did you think the rest of us wanted to know a major plot point?

  • Aug. 24, 2007, noon CST

    Walk the Line is garbage

    by Stuntcock Mike

    Hopefully this makes up for it.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:03 p.m. CST

    garbage

    by Quint

    The story has a spoiler box on it and Mira discusses the end in his review. You got a couple different warnings, don't know what else to tell ya'.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:05 p.m. CST

    Impulse

    by Quint

    Read above.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:06 p.m. CST

    Was Ed Zwick the director of The Last Samurai?

    by Charlie Murphy

    it's the only movie i enjoy starring tom cruise, although that movie would have been ten times better without tom cruise. also, despite some neat story ideas, the love sub plot involving cruise and the chinese broad was pretty laughable and i think it's almost a giant middle finger in the face of japanese people to have tom fucking cruise be the "last samurai" standing at the end of the big battle. still, there's some neat images and some cool ideas in it, that almost kinda sorta makes up for the movie shamelessly being oscar bait. bottom line, the last samurai would've been a much better movie with a different cast and a different director.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:06 p.m. CST

    Quint

    by Garbageman33

    The plot point you reveal is a heck of a lot more explicit than anything in MiraJeff's review. He suggests things. You come right out and say them. And at the top of his review he mentions "minor spoilers". Not "I'm gonna give away the end of the movie".

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:10 p.m. CST

    garbage

    by Quint

    If you think I've spoiled the end of the movie then you're wrong. I'm talking about the big shoot-out scene and Ben Wade's motivations, as discussed in Mira's review, nothing more. You'll understand when you see the movie.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:17 p.m. CST

    I appreciate the long review

    by mprose

    The more I read about this film, the more I like it. I just wish I've seen any of James Mangold's films so I could understand the hate towards him. Were not Cop Land and Girl, Interrupted two much talked-about movies? <p> Regardless, of his history, I'll be catching this and The Assassination of Jesse James. HERE'S TO THE RETURN OF THE AMERICAN WESTERN!

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:19 p.m. CST

    I stood up against the tyranny of Michael Bay

    by BringingSexyBack

    That's what I'll tell my children.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:20 p.m. CST

    Edward Zwick also directed Blood Diamond

    by BringingSexyBack

    If you haven't seen it, you must. Fantastic movie.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:20 p.m. CST

    I loved The Last Samurai but hated that Tom lived

    by BringingSexyBack

    at the end. He should've died with Watanabe, but still, he had a great line at the end.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:26 p.m. CST

    This is where we part ways BSB

    by Garbageman33

    I hated Blood Diamond. In fact, here's my entire plot summary. Preachy scene. Action scene. Repeat ad nauseum.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:27 p.m. CST

    The music in Walk the Line was great!

    by Uncapie

    And if you don't think so, may the ghosts of Johnny Cash and June Carter kick your ass!

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:30 p.m. CST

    Garbage - I agree to a certain extent, as it is a Zwick

    by BringingSexyBack

    pic. That's his thing. But the subject matter was very powerful, and Djimon Honsou was great, as was DiCaprio.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:30 p.m. CST

    lol

    by mprose

    Yeah they're obviously rolling around in movie-geek dough. How many space-ferrari's are you driving these days, Quint? /sarcasm

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:34 p.m. CST

    Walk The Line rocked

    by BringingSexyBack

    BTW that was an excellent review, Mirajeff.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 12:49 p.m. CST

    Zwick's best film was...

    by Fat Chooch

    ... the made-for-TV "Special Bulletin." He's done nothing since that's been anywhere close to being that engaging.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 1:17 p.m. CST

    Tom Cruise is : The Last Nazi

    by Stuntcock Mike

    Should be better than Superman Returns.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 1:57 p.m. CST

    Excellent Review

    by dancinggopher01

    Definitely made me want to see it more than I already did. Bale is in the top five actors working today.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 3:32 p.m. CST

    Gary Oldman

    by King Sweyn Forkbeard

    Is the best actor working today, although Bale and Crowe are definitely top ten.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 3:38 p.m. CST

    Edward Zwick directed Glory, as well.

    by Imagikafan

    It's an outstanding movie.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 5:46 p.m. CST

    SoylentMean

    by Freakemovie

    dude, I was planning on stepping in a cow pie tonight and now you've ruined it for me. Bastard.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 6:20 p.m. CST

    Charlie: RE: The Last Samurai

    by CondomWrapper

    My interpretation of the ending is that Ken Wantanabe is the last samurai, not Tom Cruise. Cruise wasn't a real samurai.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 10:06 p.m. CST

    Condom, it's been awhile since i saw it

    by Charlie Murphy

    but i think the film's POINT was to show these samurais accepting this white dude, and the whole film building to this final battle where these guys fight for what the believe in, no longer giving a fuck if tom cruise is a real samurai or not. plus, when the movie poster and trailer say "tom cruise is... the last samurai" i think that's a dead giveaway to what what trying to get accomplished. this also reminds me of a hilarious chappelle's show "ask a black dude bit" where paul mooney goes "we've got brad pitt in 'the mexican', tom cruise in 'the last samurai'... what's next? tom hanks in 'the blackest mother fucker of all time'?" i thought that was funny.

  • Aug. 24, 2007, 11:52 p.m. CST

    Why the fuck was that so long?

    by ImFixingtoDie

    MiraJeff is definetly the worst reviewer you guys have.

  • Aug. 25, 2007, 1:27 a.m. CST

    CORRECTION

    by The Real MiraJeff

    Russell Crowe has one Oscar, and two other nominations. MiraJeff regrets the error. P.S.- I warned you it was long ImFixing, you could've skipped a couple paragraphs. Sometimes I overwrite. It's a flaw. Accept it. This isn't The New York Times. We can run a little long sometimes. That's the beauty of the Internet.

  • Aug. 25, 2007, 12:43 p.m. CST

    Last Samurai was a joke

    by MC-909

    And a bad one at that. Tom Cruise as a fucking Samurai? Please. That movie was nothing more than a white guy wanting to wear Samurai armor and swing a sword. <p> Studio: "Tom Cruise wants to play a Samurai. What excuse can we come up with for him to do that?" <p> Tom Cruise the fighter pilot. Tom Cruise the racecar driver. Tom Cruise the secret agent. Tom Cruise the Samurai. Okay Hollywood, if you say so. Fuck the Last Samurai (though Glory was the shit back in the day)

  • Aug. 26, 2007, 6:20 a.m. CST

    Why the fuck was your response so long?

    by ImFixingtoDie

    MiraJeff is the worst commenter you guys have.

  • Aug. 26, 2007, 2:59 p.m. CST

    It's not the length that bothered me...

    by raw_bean

    ...it's the fact that half the 'review' is just you describing what happened! I ended up regretting how much like a synopsis it was getting and skimmed down until the Oscar talk where you actually started discussing the film's merits, rather than just laying out the plot beat by beat. That's the kind of thing some of the mouth-breathers who send stuff in do, not what I would expect from one of the primary site contributors.

  • Aug. 26, 2007, 5:01 p.m. CST

    my apologies

    by The Real MiraJeff

    There's a lot of synopsis b/c I wanted to give examples from the film. Anyone can write, Russell Crowe plays a bad-ass. But don't you wanna know what makes him a bad-ass? Don't you want some examples of his bad-assery. And really the synopsis only covers the first half of the film, to describe the circumstances the characters find themselves in and how they got there. Like I said, I know the review couldn't been shorter and less plot-centric but I wanted to illustrate the set-up and define the gravity of Dan's situation. A better writer could've done this in fewer words but alas, you guys are stuck with me. A lot of it has to do with how much notes I take during a film. The Eastern Promises review will be shorter, I promise.

  • Aug. 26, 2007, 7:09 p.m. CST

    above

    by The Real MiraJeff

    couldn't=could've

  • Aug. 26, 2007, 11:29 p.m. CST

    A positive and evocative review for EASTER PROMISES...

    by ImFixingtoDie

    and all is forgiven.

  • Aug. 27, 2007, 3:29 a.m. CST

    I love a good western...

    by football

    ... and this looks like it could be the one. I'm not sure about the Jesse James bio as I'm convinced it's just another romantisized re-telling of James being a latter day Robin Hood, which he wasn't. If the Brad Pitt film was to show James as a white-supremacist bushwhacker targeting Unionists as well as institutions that benefited the Union in a manner akin to a terrorist then it might be worth seeing. Somehow I doubt it though. Anyway, at least Yuma looks like it's going to be good.

  • Aug. 27, 2007, 7:27 a.m. CST

    Why can there be only one good western?

    by ImFixingtoDie

    There used to be dozens of these every year and two or three of them were always very good.

  • Aug. 27, 2007, 4:11 p.m. CST

    lol @ mirajeff, accurate & high quality as ever

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    what a sad fuckin clownshoe you are. "Almost as good as Clint Eastwood's directorial work in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS."