Thanks to Peter Chattaway for finding this spot-on analysis of 3:10 to Yuma.
Mr. Scott trembles, albeit accidentally, on the brink of a great insight here. Hollywood assumes that if you have enough beautiful stars making out and getting shot at and running up stairwells and diving through windows and outrunning the fireball, that that is sufficiently “American” (as Mr. Scott puts it) that the absence of a heroic narrative won’t matter. The movies have divorced the form from the content, or, if you prefer, the telling from the story. You see it most obviously in almost any remake. Take the old 3.10 to Yuma, which chugged in last month, remodelled for the 21st century. The 1957 western was nobody’s idea of a masterpiece but it had a moral seriousness: Van Heflin’s broke and he’ll lose his farm so he agrees to escort a violent felon to meet the train that will take him to prison. He’s doing it for the 200 bucks — or so he thinks. But along the way he comes to understand that he’s doing it for rather more. When a disaffected sibling of one of Glenn Ford’s victims tries to kill him, Heflin prevents him — because, in a civilization as fragile as the young West, he thinks it important that it be the law that dispatches the prisoner.
All that’s gone in the new version, with Christian Bale in the Heflin role and Russell Crowe as Ford. For Bale, it’s just about the money. Now the guy who tries to intercept the prisoner en route is not a vigilante who wishes to shortcut the law but the law itself — a rogue cop as brutal as the man he pursues. Oh, and the 2007 3.10 also gives us a Pinkerton agent who enjoys killing Injuns just for kicks, which even Russell Crowe primly draws the line at. There’s no moral universe, just a rotten state in which wickedness and violence are tempered only by degrees of politically correct squeamishness.
And now Josh Hurst and Gina Dalfonzo (The Point) also chip in as fans, spurning the Steyn/Scott argument. Good to know that people can disagree on such things and give good reasoning for it.
Greydanus concurs with Steyn/Scott, it seems, but others (McCracken) disagree and actually find true heroism in the Bale character. Interesting…