3:10 to Yuma
Directed byJames Mangold

Written by Halstead Welles, Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, based on a short story by Elmore Leonard

Starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale


3:10 to Yuma

"3:10 to Yuma" is a remake of the 1957 western - based, incidentally, on a short story by Elmore Leonard - about a man who has to take a notorious outlaw to the 3:10 train and put him on board to go to jail in Yuma. This time, though, the writers have added some enormous complications to the story. Our hero, Dan Evans, played by Christian Bale, is a rancher with a lot of problems. He's about to be foreclosed on; he has a wooden leg that was shot out from under in the Civil War, he has a wife and two boys, one of whom has TB, and if that weren't enough, as the film opens a bunch of goons working for the bank sets fire to his barn.

Meanwhile, the notorious outlaw Ben Wade, played with a sly wit and a sophisticated style by Russell Crowe, who was born to play the role, has just held up what I believe is the railroad stagecoach - now there's an oxymoron - with a payroll of thousands in it, and he and his gang must be caught. Well, Ben spends a little too much time with a luscious barmaid and gets captured. Now someone must take him to that train. Dan volunteers for $200, which will wipe out his debt and get him on his foot again.

Okay; the odyssey begins, with Dan and a group of lawmen all riding with the handcuffed Ben to the town of Contention, where they'll put him on the train, while the rest of Ben's gang is following them to rescue Ben and get away.

Crowe, with an impeccable American accent and a seductive manner, is marvelous to watch; you can't take your eyes off of him whenever he's on screen. Christian Bale, on the other hand, looks as gaunt as he did in "The Machinist" and "Rescue Dawn." It's a wonder he has any energy left for the gun battles. He projects the intensity of the starving man, but not much else.

There's a fascinating section in the middle of the film; the group taking Ben to the train is sitting around the fire at night and if you're in the film business you realize that the cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael, is actually shooting what's called night-for-night. That is, he's found a way to let us see what's happening on screen in the middle of the night without any appaarent light source. He doesn't use either the fire itself, which always looks hokey, or anything other than the very lowest-wattage lights, that just give us shadowy figures against the dark sky. Filmmakers, take notice; this is one of the nicest treats you'll find in the movies.