Saturday, September 15, 2007

11:20 To Russell Crowe

I arrived home about twenty minutes ago from seeing the movie 3:10 to Yuma. Now that is a thing worth seeing, especially if you like Westerns. I have to say that Russell Crowe is, well, he's a guy worth looking at. But more than that, he and Christian Bale are definitely the two most badass white guy actors out there. I should add that this movie is a Western, which means there's lots of gun fighting, some heroics, a hell of a lot of ambiguity and interesting themes and not too much that can actually be described as "badass."

I think one of my favorite things about Westerns are the endings. They are never conspicuously happy. In fact, if you see a Western with an overwhelmingly happy ending, it's probably a hokey one that I would hate. The traditional Western ending is ambiguous. Even the movie The Searchers is like that. Yes, they finally do rescue the girl who got kidnapped and bring her home. But her sister got killed. And a lot of other people get killed. And in the end the audience sees everyone running into the house happy and excited that the girl is still alive and finally home except John Wayne's character. He stands outside the house watching the merrymaking, but unable to take part in it. He was the one who actually went the extra mile -- and extra 5 years in this case -- to rescue the girl and bring her home. The thing I'm trying to say is that the Western never tries to trick you into believing that life is or should be a cakewalk. Even the very end is not a "happily ever after." Yes, the bad guy often gets his due, yes a few of the good people usually do survive. No, that does not mean that everything will be peachy forever.

Yuma incorporates this reality, just as much as it incorporates every other great Western theme that I have come to know and love. It's very character centric, asking the questions of what makes a man a hero or a coward through dialog and action. It portrays the man outside of society as -- in Aristotle's words -- either a "beast or a god." Some of the good guys are just as horrible and mean spirited as the bad guys. Nothing is cut and dried. But you know that Dan Evans (Christian Bale) will keep going no matter what. You are not surprised by the respect that Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) the outlaw has for Dan Evans. You are happy to see Dan Evans' son learning to love and respect his father at last.

I'm not going to tell you the story because I think you should go watch the movie for that. I just love the way they pulled off this movie. The dialog was amazing, but there was not too much of it. It happens so rarely that script writers and directors allow the actors the chance to make the movie work with acting rather than lines. I don't think there was word out of place in this movie. It was all so perfect, so geared to make the audience see what the characters were thinking and feeling. The acting was superb. I cannot even begin to describe it. Somebody should get an award, but I'm not sure who. The pacing was another rare treat. It did not move too fast. So often people want more action and less character development. This movie has both. But by not giving us too much action all at once the filmmakers were able to draw out the audience's sense of suspense. That made the ending so much sweeter; so much more worth the wait.

Yup, I'll be buying this one on dvd. I recommend you watch it.

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