3:10 to Yuma
The very best Western-style movies are didactic. That is, in the process of telling a gripping story in a desert setting where injustice reigns, Westerns impart a moral precept of some kind. Whether it is teaching a profound lesson about life or revealing some important truth about human nature, the very best Westerns instruct as much as they entertain.
Tombstone framed Wyatt Earp's life (especially the episodes at the OK Corral & on his Vendetta Ride) in Biblical terms of a reckoning. Earp was likened unto "the rider on a pale horse" of Revelation 6:8, which is quoted throughout key moments of the film. Unforgiven took us on a journey with a reformed cold-blooded killer named William Munny. He is pushed. And pushed. And pushed. And when Munny reaches a breaking point, we get to discover how much evil a decent man will suffer before rekindling his former violent ways to suppress an insufferable evil.
3:10 to Yuma continues this tradition of great contemporary Hollywood Westerns. The character development is sensational. Christian Bale plays a down-on-his-luck rancher who has hit rock bottom: he is crippled, he's dirt poor, he's about to lose his land, his boys don't look up to him, and his wife doesn't respect him. How could a man in such dire straits regain his dignity? Russell Crowe plays a renowned Western bandit & gang leader who is on top of the mountain in terms of success at his profession. And, as such, he is a bit of a "bored king." Could even a shred of redeeming goodness be found in the heart of such a rotten, villainous figure? These questions, and more, are asked & answered along the captivating journey that is this film.
The acting is superb. Bale & Crowe are two of the finest actors in Hollywood right now, and this film will grow in stature as it is remembered as having been filmed in the prime of their careers. Bale has the privilege of delivering the most memorable lines of the film, and he delivers them perfectly. He was not nominated for a Golden Globe, and I will be highly disappointed if he is not announced as a nominee for an Academy Award when those Oscar nominations are released Tuesday morning. Russell Crowe simply has the greatest range of any Hollywood actor alive today. And the supporting cast comes through as well. I especially enjoyed the acting of Dallas Roberts. He carries a forceful presence on screen, and I hope to see more of him in future films.
All the way around, this movie gets it right. Regular readers of my reviews are aware that I don't hand these out lightly. But I am giving this movie 5 stars, out of five. Buy it. Watch it. Re-watch it. Cherish it. Because Hollywood doesn't make movies like this very often.