Saturday, December 29, 2007

3:10 to Yuma

One of my favorite movies from 2007 is 3:10 to Yuma. Not having seen the 1957 movie with Van Heflin and Glenn Ford, and not having that frame of reference in which to compare the two movies initially, I was attracted to this movie because of the trailers on TV. The trailers reminded me of how much I liked some of the other recent westerns, a genre that has been reinvigorated by the scholarship of western historians like Patricia Limerick and Anne Butler.

I can now say, having seen both versions of 3:10 to Yuma, that the current version is much better. This new version’s plot is more detailed and presents more opportunities for what in literature is referred to as a complication/crisis in the midst of the plot's rising action. Whereas the climax in the earlier version was anti-climactic (precisely because the most action occurs at the hotel instead of when Dan Evans escorts Ben Wade to the train), that problem no longer exists in the updated version.

Most of all, the current version of 3:10 to Yuma contains more character development and the addition of more characters who add to the story, such as the doctor, the Pinkerton (Peter Fonda), and the teenaged boy whose fascination with pulp fiction alters his perception of Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and causes him to underestimate his father. Both Ben Wade and Dan Evans (Christian Bale) become round characters; the viewer comes to learn of Dan Evans’ motivation for getting Ben Wade to the train, despite all odds, and learns of Ben Wade’s reason for pursuing a life of crime. It wasn't revealed in the previous version exactly why Dan Evans thought it was so important to do what no one else would do. Even Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), Ben Wade’s senior accomplice, plays a larger role in the updated version of the story and appears more menacing.

I recommend seeing 3:10 to Yuma at a movie theater, preferable one with a good sound system. The music and sound effects add to the suspense and the events leading up to the climax and make the climatic scenes that much more spectacular.