3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Once upon a time on a scorched Arizona ranch there lived an impoverished lame Civil War vet by the name of Dan Evans (Christian Bale) with no money to pay off his debts and a quiet desperation entrenched in his heart.
His contemptuous older brat of a son (Logan Lerman), obsessed with the stories about the fast and furious outlaws of the Wild West, had no patience for his god honest and futile struggle to provide for his family and his wife had that look on her face that made him feel even smaller.
For the reward of $200 Dan Evans joins a squad accompanying a notorious homicidal robber Ben Wade (Russel Crowe) to the eponymous train in Contention City which would take him to trial and almost certain death. But a cakewalk this is not.
For starters, Ben Wade is not your garden variety criminal. When he’s not busy robbing armoured stagecoaches or killing those who disrupt his endeavours, he draws, quotes liberally from the Bible, courts women and dabbles in psychoanalysis. Even in handcuffs he’s more imposing and threatening than some of his undernourished guards. His gang red in tooth and claw led by a fiercely loyal and incredibly stylish psychopath Charlie Prince (sublime Ben Foster) is following them like the wrath of God. Justice doesn’t look all that likely under the circumstances.
In the eyes of the law Ben Wade is a ruthless killer and robber who should be locked down. This very law, on the other hand, has no qualms about Pinkertons shooting down Indian women and children and land speculators defrauding law-abiding ranchers of their livelihood. No wonder that today as well as a couple of centuries ago a thug with a code of honour, however twisted, can strike a chord.
As in any self-respecting western, bullets are plentiful and blood is profuse, and men surely don’t need particular reasons to pull a gun. However, the biggest draw of the film is the moments of weapon free interaction between the quiet rancher and the poised soft-spoken outlaw. Superbly played by Bale and Crowe, the two men apparently bound to have completely different values come to share an odd affinity.
Somehow amid all the hopelessness of doomed and inefficient justice our haggard rancher reveals such courage and integrity that puts to shame the gutless sheriff’s office and the greedy townsmen of the hole of Contention. A courage that not only makes his son see him for what he really is, but also gets Ben Wade to act completely out of character. And the ending baffling as it might seem at first is not so counterintuitive after all.