I don’t like Westerns. I know I usually make the sweeping generalization that romances are the only genre I don’t like, but I also don’t care for Westerns. War movies are usually misses for me too. But as far as Westerns go, I’ve seen a varied sample of them and just couldn’t get into most of them. Genre mashup westerns, fine, but straight up cowboys and gunmen and tumbleweeds don’t do it for me. 3:10 to Yuma is the exception that proves the rule.
I’ve always held it in my head as the one western I liked. I’d only bothered with it in theaters because I was a HUGE Christian Bale fan (I still am, but it waned post Batman when he lost some of his obscure indie roots). Also a huge fan of Ben Foster. Enough love for both of them to balance out how much I didn’t like Russell Crowe at the time (I’m okay on him now, but he’s not a favorite).
I put it in the lockdown watch pile because it’s easily been over a decade since I last saw it, and I wanted to find out if this was still the one western I like. And why was it that this was it?
It took me a little while to get into it. I felt the familiar waning attention that these type of films typically bring on. But slowly I got pulled in. Bale is a rancher falling on hard times, made harder by his injury acquired in the war. He takes up an opportunity to provide for his family by agreeing to escort the baddest criminal in the west (Crowe) to the train that would transport him to prison. Foster and the rest of the posse of baddies are on their trail.
Bale’s character is one of those rare genuinely good people that you truly believe in and root for. He’s one part of why I care about this movie. He’s so steadfast in his morality, you want him to succeed. You want to see such conviction pay off. On the flip side, the other standout was Ben Foster. This is one of his best performances, up there with The Messenger and Hell or High Water. His Charlie Prince should be remembered among the greatest villains on film. A complete opposite and perfect foil to Bale, no moral code, no mercy, just a fierce loyalty and sense of his own justice.
The ending blew me away. No spoilers, but it was edge of your seat and tied up the competing ideals perfectly. One of the most powerful conclusions I’ve experienced among the myriad of films I’ve watched in this past month of lockdown.
So yes, this still stands as the one Western that not only do I like, I absolutely love