How does one make a Western film, one of them dusty, twangy pictures of old that don't seem to have a place in today's cinemas, appealing to modern audiences? Director James Mangold took on incredible challenges with making 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of a 1957 Western which starred Glen Ford and Van Heflin. How to keep viewers interested? How to make them care?
The answer is this: A Western is made appealing to modern audiences by creating a character-driven film, utilizing quick edits and a few dazzling explosions, finding some sexy cowboys, and sticking to the clean, basic plotline of good versus evil. Plain and simple, 3:10 to Yuma is good storytelling made even more captivating by solid performances by the lead actors. In many ways, it's as close to flawless as I've seen in a long time. To find out more about why,
The story follows rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale), struggling financially and physically, having lost part of one leg in the Civil War, who finds himself in the presence of famed outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). With the promise of a sizable reward, Dan agrees to help deliver Ben to the 3:10 PM train that will take him to the Yuma prison. Yet Ben's men — especially the insanely evil Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) — are hot on the trail of Ben and his captors. Joining Dan on the journey to bring Ben to the train is Dan's son William who is hateful of Ben while also slightly starstruck by the notorious outlaw. Throughout the film Dan and Ben grapple with a back-and-forth power struggle, calling into question what it means to be a man... and a father.
I wasn't the biggest fan of Westerns, and as a genre I'm surprised that it's enjoying a comeback. 3:10 to Yuma, however, has changed all that, mixing together the perfect proportions of ingredients — palpably tense scenes, intriguing dialogue, fleshed-out characters, exceptional performances — to make a perfectly updated, and I daresay award-worthy, modern-made Western.
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate