Despite being set in a post civil war Arizona frontier, 3:10 to Yuma is not a Western. And despite being riddled with shootouts it isn’t really an action film either. 3:10 to Yuma is actually pretty difficult to classify since it so adroitly avoids every label except one: that of a damn fine movie.
Much of the film’s versatility stems from masterful performances by Russell Crowe and Christian Bale that transcend genre stereotypes. Both actors play quietly desperate, resourceful men forced to confront each other from opposite sides of the law.
The infamous Ben Wade is captured.
On the surface, 3:10 to Yuma is the story of a rag-tag group of men – Christian Bale among them – attempting to bring a fearsome killer to justice. But this description is as inadequate as “western” or “action film.” Each of the central characters are so complete, so complex, that watching their physical and mental struggles is engrossing beyond anything a frenzied chase or chaotic gunfight could hope to match.
This isn’t to say that 3:10 is a plodder of a movie. Chases, gunfights and tense standoffs abound but they never detract from the continued brilliance of Crowe, Bale, and the supporting cast.
Elmore Leonard penned the source material for 3:10 to Yuma back in 1953 and his short story was turned into a film just a few years later. This first adaptation starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin and has been described as one of the best westerns ever filmed. Despite my aversion to labeling the newest version of 3:10 to Yuma as a Western, I don’t doubt that it’s even better than the first.
For those of you who have seen it, do you agree?