3:10 TO YUMA



Overall Impression — A well-crafted movie that tries to do everything right and succeeds from a structural viewpoint, but is ultimately undone by some unclear character motivations.


Who’s the main character? — Christian Bale’s Dan Evans.

What’s he trying to accomplish? — Save the family ranch by getting the outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) onto a prison train.

Who’s trying to stop him? — The evil land owner, Ben Wade, and the outlaw’s bandits.

What happens if he fails? —  He loses everything he has; his ranch, his money, and the little respect his wife and sons have for him.


Orphan —  Not only is Dan is completely helpless in his drive to save the ranch from the land owner  who has cut off his water rights, even his wife doesn’t believe in him any more.  He’s orphaned not only from his community but from his family.

Wanderer —  He takes the job to help bring Ben Wade to the prison train, and has to negotiate through dangerous territory to get there.  At first, he is more reactive on the trip, allowing others to dictate the terms of how to bring Ben in.  He also begins to learn more about Ben and his code of ethics.   Similarly, Ben learns about Dan as well.

Warrior —  As the pressure mounts and more and more members of the escort party get killed, Dan steps up and takes a more active role in bringing Ben in, refusing all opportunities to give up.  It becomes not about the money, but about respect.

Martyr —  It comes down to just Dan, who in order to secure the respect of his eldest son, risks everything to get Ben to the train on time. 


Another really admirable movie that falls apart at the end, though not because of lack of “TotallyWrite-ness.”  Basically, everything is in the right place, but the film runs into a huge character motivation problem with Ben at the end.   Ben’s willingness NOT to be too much of a hinderance to Dan becomes so problematic as to ultimately undo the thin logic that was holding it all together.

An interesting observation: the very smart Gilbert Maclean Evans once pointed out to me that all movies (and by all we mean “most”) are about the main character’s drive to get respect.  3:10 TO YUMA wears that drive on its’ sleeve.

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  1. John Orban January 21, 2008 at 6:39 am #

    First off, I have to admit I’m a sucker for cowboy movies…have loved them since I was a kid and used to listen to The Lone Ranger on the radio.

    I really liked this movie because, as much as anything, I could see the plot structure very clearly. I could see the end of Act I, the BIG QUESTION, and the YES/NO conflict in the Act II, etc.

    You’re right…the ending left a bit to be desired…almost like they were going for a “You’ve Got Mail” kind of teary-eyed ending…I was waiting for Ben to kiss Dan goodbye…oh wait, that’s Brokeback Mountain?

    I guess I have to see the original movie to find out what the writers were trying to achieve with this version…obviously something different?

    As I think about it, I really like the way they handled the character of the son. Well…I’ll be searching discountdvd.com for a copy of the original.

  2. Tim McPike February 7, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    The original 3:10 had an even happier ending. Dan (Van Hefflin) doesn’t get killed in the end and ALMOST kisses Ben (Glenn Ford).

    I think the secret to making the ending more believable (in both versions) would have been a clearer motivation for Ben’s decision in the end to help Dan. Ben’s arc is a little better motivated in the new 3:10, but is cleaner, in a sense, in the 50’s version because the action is minimized. The original is a psychological thriller, the new version an action thriller.

    I’d be interested in your analysis of the original.

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