Movie Analysis 3:10 to Yuma
Professor: Stacy Hartlage
April 13, 2012
Movie Analysis 3:10 to Yuma
Every Wild West movie needs a real hero. Someone brave and tough who sets
the wrongs to right. In this movie, even though the hero (Dan Evans) is a good man, he is really not a hero. He is proud, honest, and serious, but at the same time very quiet and fearful. A small rancher and war veteran that is going thru a rough time in his life, desperate because is in debt and about to lose his land. By fate, one day Evans and his two sons William and Mark witnesses outlaw Ben Wade and his gang robbing a stagecoach and killing all those who get in their way. These famous outlaws run with the money killing almost all people of the stagecoach. Then the gang of bandits made the terrible mistake of going to the local town. After being captured by the authorities, Wade must be taken to court in Yuma. So now Dan Evans decides to take the terrible risk of being one of the escorts who will take an outlaw Ben Wade to the train to go to court in Yuma. So, needing the $200 reward, Evans is one of the escorts transporting Wade to Contention. Now the journey to bring Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma, begin with a group formed by Dan Evans, Grayson Butterfield (the coach’s owner), McElroy (only survivor of the robbery), Potter (local veterinarian/doctor) and Tucker (one of the guards), followed by the Ben Wade gang right behind them, looking for an opportunity to rescue their boss.
The transport team finds their task is filled with danger. The journey to Yuma is filled with ambushes by Indians, pursuits by Wade’s hostile gang and Wade’s own conniving and surreptitious behavior. Eventually they arrive to the town of Yuma, were they stay in a hotel so they can hide quietly and wait for the 3:10 train. But things get ugly when Wade’s gang gets into town to saves their leader. The battle begins as they try to take Wade through a town full of armed outlaws, paid by bandits to kill anyone who tries to help Evans. At this point Wade’s sympathy for Evans’ determination gets in the way of the bandits when Wade decides to cooperate with him by getting in the train willingly so Evans can look like a hero in front of his son.
After an epic battle Evans and Wade make it successfully to the train. They are both smiling and saying goodbye to each other when Charlie (Ben’s leader outlaws) fatally shoots Evans in the back. At the same time the rest of the gang get there, but Wade is furious with Charlie about the killing of Evans, so Ben kills Charlie and one by one executes the rest of the gang. The movie finishes with Ben boarding in the 3:10 train to Yuma to go to prison honoring Dan’s memory. But, as the train is leaving, Wade whistles to his horse. The horse runs after the train, meaning that Wade will again escape. It is clear that the movie 3:10 To Yuma paints a poor description of the Wild West and the Western history. Because, although the movie is set in the Wild West it doesn’t utilize all the different aspects of the Wild West theme.
I have to say that this movie really doesn’t have a hero. Evan’s character lacks of most of the extraordinary qualities that a Wild West superstar needs. This Wild West movie actually uses the villain as a hero, which is not typical to the Western films. This leaves us with the villain Ben Wade. He had done 26 robberies in the town and with his charm, intelligence and talent he gets to be the star of the movie. He is so famous that his legendary mastery with the gun makes people call him “the hand of God.” Also, he is the very attractive bad guy that all the women want. But he has no mercy, no principles, and no morals. He is a killer that manipulates people and at the same time he is charming. Ben Wade lives by a double standard that makes him good and bad at the same time. In conclusion he has a lot of the characteristics of a great Wild West outlaw. But the fact that this villain is being used as the hero of the movie, affects it because it makes the outlaws as starts of the film. This disturbs the structure of the movie since it makes the villain the hero, leaving the screenplay without a brave and fearless character that serves up justice and conquers the outlaws saving the weak from the bad guys.
At the beginning of the movie when Dan Evans goes to the town, we can see that the city is missing a lot of things. All the landscapes and natural surroundings that are typical of the Wild West like open land, dry arid landscapes, tumbleweeds, cactus, rocky mountains are present in the movie. However, my first impression of the town was that the territory was a very small street. It is known that the Western theme towns have specific characteristics that make it easier for the viewer to recognize it as a Western community. But, in this particular movie the town was very small and it really looked like a road more than a town. Some of the characteristics of the Wild West frontier towns include: wide open spaces, horses, guns, gunslingers, saloons and gamblers. A lot of these elements were missing in this film. The movie didn’t use enough of these aspects to make it realistic. They could definitely have done a lot more to make the town look complete and authentic.
In reality and in most of the Wild West films, women played a very important role. But this movie barely uses women. They didn’t take advantage of the great qualities of the female legends in the Wild West. There are only two women in the movie and the roles they play are very insignificant. One is the wife of Evans. Her character is quiet and plain. The other is a bartender and bedmate of Wade. After all that we have learned in our ENG 102 class about women in the Wild West we know their lives were emotionally and physically challenged. They had to be strong to cope with the elements, lawlessness, few amenities and also do the work of the men when they were off in battle. This film clearly omits a complete description of the trials of the women of the Wild West leaving the viewers without an important element of the Western Era.
There are only a couple of historical events in the movie and it really doesn’t describe these events in detail. The first is the rail road was being built by Chinese workers. The second was the conflicts between the settlers and the Natives Indians. The film neglected to show other important Wild West historical events: Like The Gold Rush of 1849 and the important expeditions made to research the weather, soil, rivers, trading, animal and plant life. The film could have shown the importance of these expeditions for mapping the lands and studying the region’s native tribe’s language and culture.
Then maybe they could have explored the life of the cowboy and showed how he spent months in the saddle, sometimes in the same clothes every day. Also they could it mention the Western saloons and how these kinds of bars were very essential to the Old West. These places offer entertainment like dancing girls, poker, dice games, billiards, darts and some saloons even incorporated piano players and theatrical skits, gambling and prostitution. The saloons were of central importance to life in these Western towns, serving cowboys, soldiers, gold prospectors, miners and gamblers. Without these important parts of history this movie will be misleading the viewer because the Old Wild West would not be described accurately.
We already proved that the essential events and characteristics of the Wild West are omitted in most part of this film. Altogether the movie main focus point is the trip that they have to take to the 3:10 train to Yuma, to be able to take the prisoner to court. But this movie really doesn’t use the Western theme or the Western characteristics a full. Without a doubt we get to the conclusion that the movie was not accurately describing the Wild West life or environment. So we can leave the title of Greatest Wild West of all times to movies like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Red River, Shane or Stagecoach, or others but 3:10 to Yuma will not be one of them.
3:10 to Yuma. Dir. James Mangold. Perf. Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Logan Lerman, Dallas Roberts, Ben Foster. Lions Gate, 2008. DVD.