3:10 to Yuma
Based on an Elmore Leonard story, this 1957 Western is a compelling mix of conflicting principles between two men, a farmer and a murderer, who hold each other captive while waiting for the 3:10 train to Yuma.
Reviewed by Eli Kooris, Fri., July 5, 2002
3:10 TO YUMA (1957)
D: Delmer Daves; with Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr, Leora Dana, Richard Jaeckel. After rancher Dan Evans (Heflin) and his two sons witness a stagecoach robbery by Ben Wade (Ford) and his gang (during which two men are killed), he returns to his dusty ranch house, visibly distraught. Evans relays what he has just seen to his wife (Dana), lamenting how he couldn't have done anything to stop it. She responds bluntly, "It just seems terrible something bad can happen, and all anyone can do is stand by and watch." This ignites something inside of Evans. With his ranch plagued by drought, his cattle dying, and his home in danger of foreclosure, he is weary of being seen as a failure through the eyes of his family. He has stood by and watched life for too long. When lovestruck Wade is subsequently arrested in a nearby town, a $200 bounty is offered to transport the dangerous outlaw to Yuma, where he will stand trial. In desperate need of the money, Evans accepts the job. The two men find themselves holed up in a hotel room in the town of Constance waiting for the 3:10 train to Yuma, testing the other's wits as Wade's gang gathers outside. This cat-and-mouse game played between the rancher and his captive outlaw is the very marrow of 3:10 to Yuma, a struggle between survival and what is right. Director Daves paces this meaty second act perfectly, making it difficult to say who is really being held hostage. While Charles Lawton Jr.'s inky, black-and-white cinematography is stunning, the originality of the film's storyline and the script's witty, intelligent banter are what makes this Western truly stand out from its contemporaries. The film was based on a story written by a young nobody named Elmore Leonard (better known now for penning novels like Get Shorty and Out of Sight), who creates a rich and fascinating conflict of principles between Wade and Evans. In the end, 3:10 to Yuma concludes with the triumph of morality -- how could it not in the Fifties? -- yet it is the focus on what drives these characters to stick to their ideals that makes this film a classic.