Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Dozen Thoughts I Had While Watching 3:10 To Yuma

When you write about movies all the time it can feel bizarre to get around to a major one, months after everyone else has seen it. It's a bit like a dangerous workplace confession: I slept on the job! But I finally jumped on that months old train to Yuma. So herewith, random thoughts about the movie. 12 of them. (*spoilers* follow obviously)



1. Peter Fonda starts off the first action sequence with the line "Here we go..." and I got the impression it'd be one big shoot-out after another: Ben Davis (Russell Crowe) and his gang of outlaws versus Dan Evans (Christian Bale) and assorted good guys for two hours. Turns out the film is much quieter than that. Action wise, it peaks 10 minutes in with the ambush robbery. I love the jaunty awkwardness of the camera and that primitive machine gun. And the bit with the gunpowder was an adrenaline charged surprise -though I always feel terrible for horses in westerns. "No animals where harmed in the making of this..." and all but I'm a softie.

2. I've heard this film was traditional and boy howdy. Even down to the score. It feels like it could have been made decades ago.

3. Gretchen Mol. On paper it's a great idea to co-star with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. Pity there's so little for her on screen. Yuma was a hit mainstream film which I suppose is an ideal way to follow up a small critical breakthrough (The Notorious Bettie Page, FB Best Actress nominee 2006) but it's frustrating: she can do more than this. Her role here might be emblematic of American films and women in 2007. All the popular dramas were so male focused (No Country, There Will Be Blood, Into the Wild, Michael Clayton, American Gangster) women are there for a little extra flavor on the side if at all.

4. I wish Christian Bale would put some weight back on. I feel like he just came in from the jungles of Nam and Rescue Dawn, still all weak from malnutrition. It isn't distracting for this character, a poor rancher who can't put enough food on his family's table. But when this actor isn't scaring me he's worrying me.

5. Filmmakers, filmmakers. Don't you remember what I said about killing off very hot less famous actors right after we've been introduced to them?


It's not nice. The victim here is Tommy (Johnny Whitworth) the prettiest member of Ben Davis's gang and therefore the first to expire.

6. Christian Bale and Russell Crowe are the protagonist and antagonist leads a la Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise in Collateral but for once, the studio didn't try to fool anyone into believing that either of them were a "supporting actor" for Oscar purposes. Thank you Lions Gate for not lying to us. It's so refreshing. In fact it's downright shocking in 2007.

7. Remember back when this movie first came out how Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere was bitching about the poster, claiming it was too stylized, too fey. 'Bob Fosse's 3:10 to Yuma' I believe he called it, what with its stylized look and strike-a-pose gunfighter ... a second poster was even more dance posed. Since I hadn't seen the movie I didn't realize that the marketing campaign was built around Ben Foster's character "Charlie Prince" the freaky strutting henchman to Russell Crowe's "Ben Wade."

One character refers to him as "Charlie Princess," and Foster has clearly taken the insult to heart in his interpretation. He's more than a little, um, bent. He even does a catwalk (porchwalk?) costume change for your viewing pleasure.


And I think we can all agree that if this movie gets the inventive Arianne Phillips her second costume design nomination (and it might) she should buy Ben Foster a beer.

In fact everyone in this cast owes Benny boy a beer. How the hell did they get that SAG ensemble nomination, but for him going out on a limb to make an impression?

8. Everybody in this movie (except Russell Crowe & Christian Bale, natch) are terrible shots. They're as incompetent as Storm Troopers. I suppose Charlie Princess can aim, too. But not when he's aiming at Christian Bale. At least not with any degree of consistency.

9. Poor Alan Tudyk. When last we saw him he was drugged and naked on a rooftop in Death at a Funeral...doing his all for a movie that didn't deserve him. But the second he appeared in Yuma as an over his head veterinarian I said to my friends "he's so going to die". Why did I say this? I'm still scarred from that Serenity movie is why. Damn Joss Whedon.

10. I don't want to start any 'who's sleeping with who' rumors but the kid who plays Christian Bale's son.


I'm just saying.

11. In most romantic comedies the couple pretends to hate each other for half the movie. The manly drama version of this preposterous fantasy arc is when sworn enemies become friends or come to some profound mutual understanding because they beat the crap out of each other or kill each other's people. Both of these hoary old clichés from romantic comedies and burly men's films are so preposterous yet they're totally the stuff of thousands of movies. For whatever reason they're collective fantasies. This character arc is especially silly when it involves bloodthirsty criminals who will shoot anyone who looks at them funny. And then suddenly they respect someone! Russell Crowe is a talented actor but even he can't sell this change of heart.

12. Are we sure this movie isn't called 310 to Yuma? As in minutes.


I'm as bored as Christian Bale. C

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23 comments:

Aaron said...

I'm rather glad you didn't like this. I saw it with everyone else and I liked it well enough, but after about an hour and a half I got to wondering about when it would end. And then it just kept going and into bad, overly sentimental nonsensical territory.

That business with the son and Christian Bale in the hotel. Gimme a break. Let's get to the gunslinging.

Nick Davis said...

I loved this whole entry. LOVED it.

mikadzuki said...

What Nick said.

steve said...

I love the old westerns (and many of the new variations we saw this year), and I was appalled that this one stole the mantle of "The Greatest Western Since..."

Arkaan said...

Nathaniel, is this link your doing?

http://www.awardsdaily.com/FYC/2007/images/january10/zodiac_big.jpg

NATHANIEL R said...

Arkaan. that's pretty awesome. good on the marketers for working that angle. Too bad that movie is only just regaining momentum now that oscar ballots have been finalized.

El Gigante said...

It should also be pointed out that when Alan Tudyk is killed in this movie at the end of a daring escape just as they think they've gotten away (just like in Serenity). A very funny look at an entirely so-so film. I'm curious about your thoughts on the original though. The endings are quite different.

sir jorge said...

best post about 3:10 TO Yuma I've seen in a LONG time! I loved it

Nick Davis said...

I can't follow Arkaan's link. What's he referring to?

Arkaan said...

It's an FYC poster for Zodiac, with the line "Not all great films open in the last six weeks of the year."

If you click on my name, you should see it (though, I should point out, I didn't actually create the poster).

Anyway, Nathaniel, I enjoyed your piece on 3:10. I've had the movie sitting here for a couple weeks now, but haven't slipped it in.

Robert said...

$50 to the first person who can tell me what the heck Luke Wilson was doing in this movie.

Kamikaze Camel said...

That Zodiac add is great.

3:10 still hasn't been released here yet, so...

goatdog said...

I was sort of wondering what happened to Christian Bale's prosthetic leg during the action sequence toward the end when he and Crowe are jumping from rooftop to rooftop like they're in Spider-Man.

Rural Juror said...

Poor Gretchie Mol . . .

JS said...

I also couldn't believe that that much development happened to Crowe to justify that ending.

So Nath, you liked American Gangster more than 3:10 to Yuma?

(In other news, Atonement is #250 on imdb's top 250.)

daveylow said...

Well, I love Westerns and I loved this movie, much more than the other arty Westerns we're supposed to bow down to this season.

Westerns do lose something on the small screen.

But I still enjoyed your comments!

Joe Reid said...

"$50 to the first person who can tell me what the heck Luke Wilson was doing in this movie."

Doing his damnedest to ruin it? Being the worst thing about the movie he's in yet again? Email me and I'll tell you where to mail the check.

NATHANIEL R said...

more than american gangster? i dunno. grades are just ballpark figures you know. in the same realm of "totally underwhelmed by it but it's a decent movie"

Kurtis O said...

Ben Foster was by far my favorite thing about this movie. I loved the "porchwalk" scene, as you call it, and I love when he roughly yet gracefully dismounts from his horse after the first gunfight. And I love when he gets shot (sorry if that was a spoiler to anyone).

Alfred Soto said...

Besides the worthless ending, James Mangold is an inept action director.

Anonymous said...

I liked both American Gangster and 3:10 to Yuma.

I think some people are just made that critics like these more than the shitty Assasination of Jesse James movie.

NATHANIEL R said...

I'll be duly impresed if someone can tell me what's "shitty" about Jesse James. But I don't think anyone who has seen the movie can.

Anonymous said...

Jesse James was a big snore it was pretty but that's all. 3:10 to Yuma and American Gangster were a LOT more entertaining than Jesse James.