In this current generation of cinema, hardly any people remember Delmer Daves' classic 1957 western film 3:10 to Yuma that was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. This is an extraordinarily rare occurrence when a remake actually outshines and surpasses the original in every aspect. In a sense, James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma symbolises a glimmer of optimism for the future of cinematic remakes. For years, Hollywood has persistently remade classic films with completely catastrophic consequences. Mangold's film also signifies a new Hollywood generation for the western genre. In 2005, Australian filmmakers reinvented the genre with The Proposition. Although this film cannot improve on the Australian production, this is a western for the history books. Critics have praised this movie as the best western since Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (which collected the Best Picture Oscar back in the early 1990s). There can be no dispute: 3:10 to Yuma is a riveting western abundant in underlying psychological messages analogous to those present in the original. Most commendably, this remake avoids replicating the original. As an alternative the script employs roughly 30% of the 1957 film. The rest of the script builds deeper characterisations in the protagonists, and stretches out the plot for a more expanded running time of about 120 minutes (as opposed to the original's 90 minutes). Normally this could be disastrous, however to the credit of those involved the additions don't feel fabricated: they feel natural and completely fitting in this version of the story. Kudos to director Mangold for maintaining the conflict and central spirit of Daves' original, while still managing to accommodate a fairly serious expansion of a terrifically original story.
3:10 to Yuma is a character-driven western fuelled by astounding performances. The seemingly never-ending string of exposition pays off when the action kicks in. These are possibly the most intense, riveting, stimulating western action scenes the genre has ever seen. Mangold has always been a completely focused director; confident and proficient behind the camera, determinedly manufacturing fine results. The technical aptitude is palpable in all filmmaking aspects. Mangold and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael produce the amazing visuals that are assisted and complimented by the accomplished sound mix: ear shattering sound effects for the gunshots amalgamated with silent but effective music composed by Marco Beltrami. The music isn't overbearing to the point of distraction like a majority of modern action movies; instead it's subtle, exciting, powerful and artistic. The production values are a marvel to behold. A modern western will of course appear completely authentic in terms of props and costumes, and this is no exemption. The period is depicted with brutal honesty and an astronomical level of legitimacy. This portrayal will essentially transport you back to the represented time period for the film's duration. The absorbing drama mixed with this authenticity will suck you in from start to finish.
In this remake of the 1957 film, the plot remains virtually untouched. The difference is in the storytelling and the plot progression. Ben Wade (Crowe) is a notorious outlaw with a solid reputation for robbing and murdering. After Wade robs a stagecoach, he is arrested by the law and held prisoner. Rancher Dan Evans (Bale) heads into town to clarify concerns pertaining to the sake of his land when he beholds the closing events of the stagecoach robbery. Shortly thereafter, Evans is offered an immense amount of money to be among those escorting Ben Wade to the town of Contention where he will be placed on the 3:10pm train to Yuma. Once the train reaches its destination, Wade will be incarcerated. Evans' calamitous endeavour to transport Wade to the train station is in part an effort to save his land but also a component of an internal conflict to determine whether the man can prove to be more than a mere naïve rancher in the eyes of his impulsive and gun-slinging young son William Evans (Lerman). The transport to the town of Contention is perilous and overflowing with ambushes by Indians, pursuits by Wade's rancorous gang and Wade's personal manipulative and surreptitious conduct that makes the journey far more intense.
As I previously stated, 3:10 to Yuma is driven by the remarkable performances from an outstanding cast. Russell Crowe proves that he is still among the greatest actors of this generation. Crowe makes the role of Ben Wade his own. The character is endowed with additional depth in this remake, as opposed to the slightly underdeveloped outlaw in the original. Christian Bale also brings tremendous depth to the character. His version of Dan Evans is a lot stronger than the Van Heflin portrayal in Daves' 1957 version. There's excellent hostility leading to chemistry as Bale's humourless stoicism is jabbed for feebleness and mercy by Crowe's jovial, joking outlaw. Character notes are sufficient - like Dan's necessity for the approval of son William, and Ben's early abandonment - for a density that compels us to be concerned. The taut script never bogs in unnecessary analysis or sentimentality. All characters are pampered with the brutal reality from the period.
Both Crowe and Bale submit dynamite performances and execute a fine job of playing cowboy. Each actor creates depth to his character, and when you insert convincing western action, intelligent dialogue, and elegant cinematography it produces a strong western film for the ages. It's interesting to note that the evil is not drawn from Crowe's Ben Wade. Instead, Wade's motives are kept clouded with mystery until the finale while hinting that there might be a heart in him after all. The evil in the film is drawn from Ben Foster's Charlie Prince: a man who leads Wade's gang to the town of Contention for the irrevocable final stand-off. The brilliant acting never permits you to grow bored. The film is gripping and stimulating, eventually ending in an ultimately perplexing conclusion that avoids duplicating the somewhat conventional conclusion offered in the original.
Overall, 3:10 to Yuma is an extraordinarily rare event when a remake is superior to the film that spawned it. Delmar Daves' 1957 flick is still a brilliant western on its own merits, whereas James Mangold's remake improves the original in every aspect of filmmaking. 3:10 to Yuma is one of the finest westerns of this era. It's indeed an infrequent event when two groundbreaking westerns are created in the course of a few years - in this case The Proposition and 3:10 to Yuma - that rival the last truly brilliant western that was Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. Perhaps this film represents a new Hollywood era for westerns. The filmmakers remind the audience that westerns are about old-school, gritty action scenes built around some amazing character development. This film is simply far too brilliant to miss: an enduring story that offers first-class acting, heart-racing action, mind-blowing stunts and filmmaking of the highest order.
3:10 to Yuma review
An exemplary remake!
"I'm gonna be a day behind you, William. Unless something happens, and if it does, I need a man at the ranch to run things, protect our family, and I know that you can do that because you've become a fine man, William. You've become a fine man. You got all the best parts of me. What few there are. And you just remember that your old man walked Ben Wade to that station when nobody else would."