QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded

3:10 to Yuma (1957)

The 1957 3:10 to Yuma is largely a film of character, and two characters talking make up a big chunk of it. One is a rancher, Dan Evans, hard on his luck, who thinks 00 can save him. The other, Ben Wade, is a smooth talking criminal.

The criminal is in custody, but his devoted "outfit" (gang) is well known for setting free any of their number captured. No one thinks he can be kept in town and no one wants to guard him. But when Evans overhears the offer of 00 for the job, he accepts not knowing what it will entail.

What it does entail is keeping Wade at his house while a dummy stagecoach is sent off for the gang to follow. And then it entails escorting Wade to another town under cover of night, guarding him until 3pm in a hotel, and then walking him to the station for the 3:10 train. All with no guarantee that Wade's gang won't find him and set him free at some point.

That story provides a decent amount of tension, but it's not the only source. There's Wade himself. He talks a lot, makes himself seem generous and reasonable, drops hints of how dangerous his gang can make thinks, weasels for some means of escape through bribery or force.

I haven't seen the 2007 remake, and I'm not sure I want to.

This film is a western in setting, but drama by nature. It could easily be any time or place where law enforcement has trouble maintaining order. The cattle aren't crucial to the story, the characters are. Five people are killed in this film, two in the opening robbery, and there are maybe eight to ten gun shots total. But there is a pervasive fear of death among those who would bring justice to Wade or his gang, a tense and foreboding atmosphere that keeps the story strong.

The remake, from what I've read, is not a drama. It is a bloodbath action / western with less time for talk and character development. This is a story that could easily be remade in a different setting, like so much of Shakespeare's works, but removing the silver tongued criminal would just be a mistake.

3:10 to Yuma (1957) at IMDB

3:10 to Yuma (2007) at IMDB