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Under Review: 3:10 to Yuma

September 16th, 2007 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

I have sometimes experienced a rather odd sensation of not knowing whether I liked a movie.

When I exited The Departed, for instance, I knew that I had just witnessed a well made film with some outstanding performances, a decent script, and some funny lines, but also had a vague and imprecise sense that something was lacking.

This is how I felt after 3:10 to Yuma, the newly released remake starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.  While both men portray complex, compelling characters, and while the plot is engaging enough, at the end of the movie I was not sad it was over.

While I am open to the suggestion that it is the genre that I am struggling with, the problems with the film seem to go deeper.  Much like Kingdom of Heaven, there is a deep ambiguity about right and wrong, which makes it difficult to root for one side or the other.  Russell Crowe's character claims to be as debauched as they come, but is so in such sophisticated fashion that it feels as though the filmmaker is too sympathetic toward him.  This makes the central conflict between Bale and Crowe more complex, and consequently less powerful.

Yet despite my own impressions, I would still recommend seeing 3:10 to Yuma (at least to those who aren't troubled by violence).  It is, if nothing else, a well-made film with fine performances by two of Hollywood's best leading males.

Other reviews:

Christianity Today:  "This is a film that revels in all the most entertaining conventions of its genre, but also strives for—and achieves—a deeper inquiry into moral psychology. On one level it's about gunfights, spurs, and saloon showdowns, but on another it's a film about the fuzzy lines between right, wrong, and the law in an altogether lawless frontier land."

Salon:  "Overall, the picture is accomplished, intelligent and, in places, a little dull."

Ben Witherington:   "Like in so many westerns, this is a story about the gaining of respect, and the redemption of a man's honor which had been besmirched by the vicissitudes of life and his failure to respond to them bravely and in good faith."

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.