Monday, September 10, 2007
I must admit that I have never seen the original 3:10 TO YUMA so I can't compare James Mangold's new version to it. I will say though that I doubt very much that I would admire this new version any less had I seen that original 1957 production.
Since his debut twelve years ago with the touching HEAVY (1995), James Mangold has quietly become one of the most assured American Directors around. In his best films (HEAVY, COP LAND (1997), WALK THE LINE (2005) and now 3:10 TO YUMA) he is a master at penetrating character studies and at bringing out exceptional performances from his lead actors.
One thing that I love about 3:10 TO YUMA is how overwhelmingly simple it is. Much of this has to be credited to Elmore Leonard's original story but the screenplay credited to Halsted Welles, Micahel Brandt and Derk Haas is really exceptional in how cleared headed it is in what it is trying to accomplish.
I am going to hold off from a full review of the film until I can see it again and have time for it to really soak it in. I can say right now that I didn't have any problems with it, which is rare for me with a modern American film. I was struck by everything from by the look of the film to the incredible score (that manages to be dramatic without sounding manipulative) by Marco Beltrami. 3:10 TO YUMA though is finally about the cast, specifically its two leads, and most of the films success should be credited to them.
The supporting cast is fine and features especially solid work from Gretchen Mol and a beautifully grizzled looking Peter Fonda. It was also great to see the always reliable Vinessa Shaw in an effective scene towards the beginning with Russell Crowe.
The two leads are magnificent. If there are two better actors than Russell Crowe and Christian Bale under fifty on the planet right now then I don't know where they are hiding. The main pleasure in YUMA is watching these two phenomenal actors working together and their work makes a very simple story into something positively epic.
Crowe's Ben Wade is one of his great performances and one of his most relaxed. Any other actor would have overplayed this role into the ground but Crowe delivers one of the most effective and moving performances of the year here. Bale equals him at every turn and his Dan Evans is a startling creation that is equal parts wounded and heroic. Together these two lock in perfectly and the connection they have by the end of the film doesn't feel at all forced, but just right.
3:10 TO YUMA is one of the best films I have seen this year and it's a great film to see in a theater. It's a classy and classic western that never feels like it is apologizing or patronizing the genre. I haven't enjoyed or been as moved by an American western since Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN over fifteen years ago.