3:10 to Yuma is about Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his band of thugs who have repeatedly orchestrated several robberies in Arizona in the late 1800s. It is also about Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a self-deprecating rancher who is doing what he can within his own ethics to get his family by, but he is failing. Evans first meets Wade when he and his sons witness one of the robberies. Soon, Evans visits the town of Bisbee alone to confront a man he is in arrears with and he happens upon Wade and his gang again, who had drawn the authorities out of town after having Wade's top goon Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) inform the authorities of the latest robbery and saying that Wade's group headed elsewhere. Evans leaves and meets the Bisbee authorities when they see him helping a wounded bounty hunter, who Wade and his men shot during their robbery. Evans informs them that Wade and his men are indeed in Bisbee. Evans actually plays an active role in apprehending Wade, and he agrees to assist in escorting Wade to the town of Contention, where Wade will take a prison train to his inevitable execution for his many murders and robberies. That train is the 3:10 to Yuma and the movie's primary focus involves the ride to Contention and the various encounters with Wade's pursuing gang and many other enemies along the way.
3:10 to Yuma is a well polished piece of western cinema. If Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven was an elegy to the once alive and well American genre then I guess 3:10 to Yuma is an fitting in memoriam. It's a remake actually, although almost unrecognizable from the original 1957 western. Other than what amounts to being a fairly unsatisfying conclusion, 3:10 to Yuma is one of the best films of 2007 so far. There are many things to praise here. James Mangold (Walk the Line, Copland) puts together a fun and entertaining shoot'em up that also happens to deliver in both style and substance. The characters are great here and the performances are handled well enough that I wouldn't be too surprised if we saw two or three get credit in the upcoming award season. Although, the fantastic screenplay may very well be the unsung hero.
Christian Bale repeatedly solidifies his reputation as a great actor by, in my humble opinion, actually upstaging Crowe. Part of that is the character of Wade, which I'm almost tempted to say was written to be an ego-booster for Russell Crowe. I'm not one of those people who tries to bash Crowe though, he is amazing in this too. His presence is formidable in anything and the character of Ben Wade definitely calls for it. The best performance in this film and who I think would be well rewarded with a Golden Globe or an Oscar nomination is Ben Foster as Charlie Prince. I'm pretty sure we'll see him get nominated and perhaps even win. He is incredibly scary and one the best villains to come along in some time. Gretchen Mol and Peter Fonda were very good in their limited roles as well. I actually think this is hands down the best ensemble cast of the year so far and one of the best to come along in quite a while.
Still, the film does seem anti-climactic and maybe upon another viewing I'll concede that the ending was satisfying, but for now it really is that alone that keeps 3:10 to Yuma from getting a perfect rating. It's the first film of the year that I'd recommend seeing as soon as possible because by award season this will likely be one of the movies everyone is talking about.