The film stars Christian Bale as Dan Evans, a poor rancher who finds himself on a mission to deliver an apprehended outlaw to a prison train. Dan is the hero of the film, struggling in a lawless world to bring justice. The real star of the film, however, is Russell Crowe, who plays the charismatic and cruel outlaw, Ben Wade.
Wade is one of the most complex villains to appear in theaters in the past few years. He is sadistic and seemingly amoral, but we occasionally see glimpses of a more sensitive man. Crowe does excellent work of developing an extremely multi-faceted character that keeps the audience guessing. At the end of the film, it's difficult to decide what constitutes a "villain" anymore.
Perhaps the lowest point of "3:10 to Yuma" is the lack of skilled actors in minor roles. With a few exceptions, these characters seem a bit two-dimensional and only serve to pass the plot along to the stars. One particularly bad example of acting is Dan Evans' son William, played by Logan Lerman. William is sullen and stubborn until he sees his father's heroism, an attempt on the part of Yuma's writers to make the film into a father-son story. Unfortunately, Lerman's acting is unconvincing as a stubborn adolescent, and his character comes off as flat.
"3:10 to Yuma" makes no claims of historical accuracy. Don't expect a realistic Old West - this is a world where Mexican sharpshooters carry antiquated sniper rifles, stagecoaches are fitted with enormous Gatling guns and all rich men sport dapper little moustaches. All the main characters are crack shots, and all the extras can't hit the broad side of a barn. This isn't a documentaryit's entertainment.
This is what 3:10 to Yuma does best. It's a film that will dazzle viewers and suck them into the story. Phedon Papamichael does excellent work as cinematographer, making full use of the beautiful New Mexico landscape and drawing out the rich colors of the countryside. The action sequences (of which there are many) are genuinely gripping and keep the audience hooked to the very end of the film.
"3:10 to Yuma" may not be a terrifically complex or accurate film, but it certainly accomplishes what it aims for: a refreshing adventure of real heroes and villains in a lawless but beautiful world. It's a successful tribute to a fading genre, one that will hopefully revive it to its old glory.