As arguably the most traditional and recognizable American genre, the Western has long been perceived as an accurate reflection of the nation in modern times.

Typically set in the late 1800s, films of this genre use the gritty landscapes of the Wild West and the lawlessness of their characters to paint a telling parable of contemporary American life set in a seemingly distant time.

Curiously, the genre has all but disappeared amidst the cookie-cutter product that is American film, and we are left instead with carefully calculated remakes and sequels with the sole purpose of making a quick buck at the box office (“Evan Almighty,” anyone?).

A remake itself, “3:10 To Yuma” works within the groundwork of the American Western and Hollywood film to tell an especially relevant story for today’s audience. And there’s violence, too!

Following the basic plot structure of the 1957 original, “Yuma” comes out shooting from the hip. While it draws heavily from canonical American Westerns and the Italian subset of the genre – the Spaghetti Western – director James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) does wonders to the source material, turning an essentially by-the-numbers plot into a tour-de-force.

The plot follows Dan Evans (Christian Bale) – a farm-owning family man and former soldier going through tough times — as he desperately attempts to cash in on a $200 offer to transport local badass Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) across town to the train station, where his ride to prison awaits.

Like any Western, showdowns, bonfires and copious amounts of whiskey drinking ensue, but it is the performances by the two leading actors that really get the train running.

While Christian Bale continues to prove that he is one of the greatest actors of today’s generation, it is Russell Crowe who truly shines as the obligatory “Man With No Name.” Crowe nearly trumps Clint Eastwood at his best as the mysterious gun slinging wanderer.

And while the film does considerable justice to shine light on his character, we are left wanting even more upon it’s conclusion.

The lines between good, bad and ugly are very thin with Ben Wade, as questions of decency, faith and character are constantly put to the test.

If the performances of the two main actors don’t leave you breathless, the action will. Handheld camera work helps to add a sense of kinetic frenzy to the film’s various shootouts.

Mangold shows that you don’t need a $100 million dollar budget and CGI to stage some seriously mind-blowing action scenes. Not to say that this film doesn’t pack a punch.

The final twenty minutes will satisfy any fan of “300” while miraculously managing to inspire some movement of thought as well.

Like any film should, “3:10 To Yuma” makes you wonder. Down to its core, the film pleads that initial perceptions of individuals are not as accurate as one might imagine, something that has become increasingly relevant in the age of information, where all you need is a finger and an Internet connection to “communicate” with your peers.

While it may not quite live up to the moral certainty of its predecessors, “3:10 To Yuma” is a breath of fresh air to the American Western and to Hollywood film in general.

There are no tumbleweeds in this film and with good reason. Don’t judge this film based on what you might have heard. See it for yourself.

Milbrand is a member of the class of 2008.



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