2007 was apparently supposed to be the year of the Western, or at least some form of it.  I remember reading an article back in the fall of that year, highlighting a possible resurgence of Western and Western-themed movies.  Looking at various box office charts that year, there were only two “true” Westerns released that year (the Western being synonymous with the gunslinger, the shanty towns, the wild west showdowns, etc.): 3:10 to Yuma (which I’ll get to shortly), and the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which, hopefully, I’ll get to in a month or so).  Of Western-themed movies (movies that have a Western setting but are not true Westerns), again, only two: No Country for Old Men (winner of best picture that year), and There Will Be Blood (a best picture nominee from that year).  Of those four, only 3:10 to Yuma originally opened wide.  No Country went into a small wide release in its third weekend before expanding into 2000 theaters by the end of its run, There Will Be Blood didn’t go wide until its fifth weekend, and Assassination never went wide at all (its biggest expansion was into 300 theaters).  In 2008, Appaloosa was the only wide release Western that year, and it did lukewarm business at that.  True Grit, a remake of the John Wayne classic, opens around Christmas time this year, the first true Western since Appaloosa.

As for 3:10 to Yuma, it did pretty decent business for a Western.  Released in September (the week after Labor Day), the movie opened at number one and ended up grossing $53 million by the end of its run.  One can imagine if it got released in a summer month what kind of business it would have done.

This I think is the third time I’ve watched this movie.  I saw it in theaters originally (dragging my poor sister to see it since she is not a Western fan at all) and liked it then.  I watched it again when I bought it on DVD, and I still liked it then.  For this movie retrospective, I watched it a third time.  Now, I truly love this film.

It’s not because of the fact that this movie is great.  It really is, but it’s when you sit down and start thinking about the movie, and the various themes occurring throughout that it really makes you appreciate the story that the filmmakers are trying to tell.  The overall plot is simple enough: Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a rancher trying to make ends meet while preventing a railroad from being built through his land.  Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is an outlaw that robs carriages that transports money.  Wade is captured while in the town of Bisbee, and it’s been decided that he will be taken to the town of Contention, to board the 3:10 to Yuma federal prison train.  Evans goes with the small group, hoping to make enough money to stay on his land and keep the railroad off of it.  They eventually make it to Contention, where a final showdown occurs between Evans (trying to get Wade to the train) and Wade’s group of outlaws.

That by and large is the plot.  Simple enough, but it’s everything else that occurs throughout that adds to the story and makes it something special.  The movie itself is a tale of redemption, more for Evans than anyone else (there was a possibility for Wade, but he remains the same in the end, simply because it’s his nature as an outlaw and overall bad person).  Evans was a Civil War vet who lost his foot during a battle early on in the war, though the reasons remain unknown until the end.  At the conclusion of the war, he takes his family and moves them to Arizona, mainly for his younger son (again, the reason is discovered at the end, though one can take a guess on why, it shouldn’t be too difficult).  He’s terrible as a rancher, and is often pushed around as well.  The movie opens to his barn burning by a group hired by another rancher hoping to push him off his land to make way for the railroad.  He’s a very diplomatic person, often in conflict with the views of his older son, who prefers that he would rather have his father shoot everyone instead of trying to be reasonable.  This leads to the older son trying to imitate Wade, only to find out by the end that Wade truly isn’t a good person.  Only his father is.

As for Evans himself, his decision to go all the way to Contention becomes his redemption: in one of the best scenes from the movie, he silently yet painfully explains to his wife that he can’t stand the looks his sons give him, or the way his wife doesn’t look at him (yes, Bale pulls it off quite well).  It’s there that we know why Evans would  be willing to risk his life for $200: to become a hero in his family’s eyes and to raise them out of the poverty that he had to place them in.

As for Wade, he gets told this when they’re scrambling to make it to the train, which causes him to decide to go all the way to the train for Evans and his son.  The final scene takes away his own personal redemption (especially with what he does in the scene preceding that one), but again, he’s the villain, and a very good one at that.  Wade is the kind of guy who would either retire when he gets old, or dies on his own terms.  Getting captured and facing execution just isn’t his style.

So yes, after the third time, I’ve come to love 3:10 to Yuma.  An excellent movie throughout.

Source: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=310toyuma.htm

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