3:10 to Yuma
In all of its manifestations—Elmore Leonard short story, 1957 film with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, 2007 “remake”—3:10 to Yuma is a riveting tale, an offbeat western yarn in which a hard-pressed rancher and family man (Christian Bale) takes on the daunting task of transporting a deviously charismatic outlaw (Cameron Crowe) from the isolated town where he has been captured to a railroad town where he can be put on the train to Yuma and prison. What looms as a difficult chore at first becomes an increasingly daunting and morally challenging task as rancher Dan Evans’ scant supporting crew dwindles and outlaw Ben Wade’s gang escalates its homicidal campaign to set him free. More crucially, prisoner and captor become enmeshed in an increasingly elaborate game of moral/psychological cat-and-mouse, with the insouciantly manipulative outlaw repeatedly putting the pro tem lawman on the defensive. In appositely contrasting ways, Crowe and Bale are both terrific, and a strong supporting cast gives vivid form to the film’s intriguing array of gloomily ferocious secondary characters. As an example of contemporary Hollywood baroque, it is exceptional.