3:10 to Yuma Reviews
I also believe that this is Van Heflin's best screen performance. His Dan Evans is an everyman in the west. A rancher struggling to get by and support his family, he happens to be a dead shot and together with that and his need for money, he agrees to take outlaw Ben Wade to Yuma Territorial Prison.
Glenn Ford's Ben Wade is a complex man. He's an outlaw and a killer, the first few minutes of the film establish that. But he's tired. He can easily get away. But the sight of Felicia Farr at that saloon, makes him pause and linger when he should be skedaddling with the rest of his gang. They shouldn't have been stopping at the saloon in the first place. But Ford needed some quiet time and his acting does convince you of his need for a breather.
Anyway Ford's nabbed and stage line owner Butterfield, played by Robert Emhardt offers a reward and Heflin needs the money. The only other one aiding Heflin is Henry Jones playing Alex Potter the town drunk. He's a comic character, when they stop at Heflin's ranch, Jones inquires of his two sons where Heflin might keep a jug handy. You laugh but Delmar Daves is very subtly setting you up for later heroics.
Ford and Heflin are together most of the film and they have good chemistry. Ford works on Heflin, he'd just as soon offer a bribe to get out of his fix and Heflin comes close to taking it.
The best scene in the film is when Heflin's wife Leora Dana comes after Heflin. She finds him hold up in a hotel with Ford handcuffed to the bed just after a shootout in which Henry Jones was killed. They talk, Heflin's not sure he's coming out of this and Dana tries to tell him to give it up. Earlier Robert Emhardt has also told him to give it up. But Heflin's sticking to his duty now. The comical town drunk has just been killed in a very brutal fashion for standing up for law and order and he couldn't look himself in the face if he shirked his responsibility.
Remember Heflin is no John Wayne type hero. He's your everyman citizen taking on responsibility for his community's safety. He and Dana play this beautifully and if you don't get an emotional response you are made of stone.
Van Heflin had already gotten an Oscar for Johnny Eager. But I think his performance here is even better. Why he was overlooked in the Academy sweepstakes in 1957 is beyond belief. It's Heflin's film and it's a great tribute to a very underrated actor.
Of course the question on everyone's mind is "how does it fair against the remake?" Well, I believe that "re-imagining" is a more appropriate term to describe Mangold's 2007 version. The mood in the original is less consequential, not just because Mangold's version provides a deeper insight into the characters and their adventure, but because leading men and also powerhouse actors of their generation Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are more charismatic and seem more appropriate for the roles than the still respectable acting legends Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. I would say that we shouldn't be comparing, seeing as most classic performances haven't aged gracefully, but that wouldn't be right, because I'm not trying to compare the leading men in relation to acting ability. I'm comparing them in relation to the quality of the film and Mangold's version, being more tense, in-depth and consistent with more charismatic leading men is of higher storytelling quality. Honestly, as much as I've been comparing, Mangold's version remains more of a re-imagining and presents a new mood that seems to radically deviate from the original, almost to the point where I may as well be comparing "Cloverfield" to "Forrest Gump". Still, if we're looking at which film is better, Mangold's version - whether it be because filmmaking limitations have certainly been challenged in the 50-year gap between the versions or because the concept is finer - is superior to the original.
Still, when we get down to Delmar Daves' classic take on "3:10 to Yuma" on its own, it stands as a well-acted and generally enjoyable adventure that's worth experiencing.
The story of Dan Evans and Ben Wade (played by Van Heflin and Glenn Ford, respectively), a poor farmer and a charismatic highwayman and the pursuit of justice, even when it's against all odds.
I saw this movie after having seen the remake starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, and, admittedly, that was a mistake. The action packed sequences and amazing final shootout of that remake make the original seem slow and drawn out, even focused on the wrong parts of the story.
But, standing back, I see that the film, for it's time, really is amazing. Beautiful desert landscapes encompass a storyline that makes you feel ambivalent the entire time as to who you should be cheering for. Wade, although the clear antagonist of the story, is very charming, and compares to the depression era gangsters and bank robbers who, although criminals, were admired by the people.
Evans, on the other hand, also evokes sympathy, as the common man, struggling to make ends meet not only for himself, but for his family.
Most of the film takes place in the town of Contention, AZ, waiting for the train to Yuma. Here, Evans finally rallied my complete support when, despite being abandoned by the rest of his posse, insists on finishing the job because it's the right thing to do. Conversely, Wade loses support as he tries desperately to have Evans killed by his crew.
Overall, the film is a feel good movie, albeit devoid of action for about 80% of the time. If action is what you're craving, see the remake, which is a stance I rarely take, but in this instance, appropriate.