Second Thoughts on 3:10 to Yuma

On first viewing, I loved 3:10 to Yuma enough to give it an , despite a lot of problems I had with the last act. But the weeks went by, I’ve found myself more and more bothered with the movie’s inherent problems. So I’m officially downgrading it to a .

Don’t get me wrong; most of this picture is fantastic–easily the best new western I’ve seen in years. But as the movie works its way towards its climax, the story completely falls apart. It’s still fun on a simplistic, action-movie level, and even if it wasn’t, you’re held by the emotional investment you’ve already made in the characters by that time. But these characters keep doing stupid things, and if they didn’t keep doing stupid things, the story would resolve itself quickly and easily in a dramatically disappointing way.

The rest of this post is a spoiler. If you haven’t seen the movie, read at your own risk:

The problems start soon after the main characters arrive at Contention and check into a hotel room, when Ben Wade’s gang show up to rescue him.

  1. With the law looking down at him from a hotel window, Charlie Prince, the really bad guy in the gang, offers $200 to any townsman who kills a lawman. At that point, the lawmen have a strategic advantage and a legal right to shoot to kill. Prince’s brains should have been all over the ground before he finished talking.
  2. Three of the lawmen give up when they hear there’s a price on their head. They go out and surrender with their hands up, and get shot. Not a good idea–killing people who surrender in front of other people you hope will surrender.
  3. When Dan Evans takes Wade to the train, with everyone shooting at him, he neither covers Wade to make sure he doesn’t get away or use this man, whom the gang is trying to save; as a shield and hostage.
  4. And why does Wade just go along? If he wants to escape, he could just run the other way. If he wants to go peacefully, he could tell his gang to stop shooting.

The absurdities go on, but I won’t.