Shoot first, ask questions later

It’s been said recently that Hollywood no longer has original ideas and thus are resorting to sub-par adaptations, remakes and sequels to fill the void. While 3:10 to Yuma is both an adaptation and a remake, it stands out as one of the best films of 2007.

Based on the 1957 film by Delmer Davis-which in turn was based on an Elmore Leonard short story- 3:10 to Yuma focuses on Arizona rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale). A Civil War veteran struggling to provide for his wife and two children, circumstance provides Evans with an opportunity to pay off his debts. All he has to do is help a bounty hunter escort notorious bank robber Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to the town of Contention, where a train awaits to take Wade to Yuma Prison. This task would be problematic enough without Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) and the rest of Wade’s gang trying to track them down and the presence of Evans’ hot-headed teenage son (Logan Lerman).

It’s quite easy to be impressed by 3:10 to Yuma. Every aspect of James Mangold’s production screams authenticity, from the cast to the costuming and sets. For his follow-up to the acclaimed Walk the Line, Mangold has brought back most of the Oscar-nominated crew from that film-notably cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, costume designer Arianne Phillips and editor Michael McCusker. They’re joined by a few new faces in creating a film that looks and feels like 1880s Arizona, which is remarkable when it was shot 120 years later in New Mexico and the leads are Welsh and Australian.

Without a doubt, the strength of 3:10 to Yuma is the cast. Anchored by a pair of Hollywood heavyweights, the film represents another strong outing for Christian Bale and a return to form for Russell Crowe. Bale continues a streak of outstanding performances, including a recent turn in Warner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn. Crowe plays his first villainous role since 1995’s Virtuosity and excels, delivering a complex and nuanced performance that may be his best since Gladiator. The duo are joined by a great supporting cast, including the legendary Peter Fonda as the grizzled old bounty hunter. The standout in the supporting cast is Ben Foster. Playing Ben Wade’s right-hand man, Foster is nearly unrecognizable throughout his quest to free his captive mentor. It’s a performance that will turn some heads and make audiences forget some of Foster’s lacklustre earlier performances.

In an era where remakes seem to be made just for the sake of putting another film into a multiplex, 3:10 to Yuma is a tremendous example of filmmaking with a purpose: in this case, to retell a story that has already been told, but to do so with all the advantages of modern filmmaking. Blessed with a strong cast, a good crew and a curiously-great script from the guys that wrote 2 Fast 2 Furious, 3:10 to Yuma will likely finds its way onto many awards lists by the end of the year.

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