21. 3:10 to Yuma (1957)

Not sitting back and watching today

Directed by: Delmer Daves
Written by: Halsted Welles, based on the story by Elmore Leonard
Starring: Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr

Westerns make for great stories. The rugged landscapes, the cowboy hero, towns struggling to stand up against bad guys, and let’s not forget those saloons with swinging doors. But for a Western to stand out, these gun slinging movies need to find an original take on the same conventions, present something new, or leave a resonating message with the audience. It’s no easy job.

OK I'll admit I'm a little scared of walking out into the open and getting shot

While the idea of heroism has always ridden alongside Westerns, 3:10 to Yuma is one Western that draws its compelling story and tension through an unsuspecting hero, Dan Evans (Heflin), whose sense of duty is heavily bound to his family.  Being an ordinary rancher who must look out for the welfare of his wife and two boys in the middle of a drought, Dan has never concerned himself with outlaws or ever felt the need to. But when he becomes a key witness to a stagecoach robbery and a murder committed by a notorious gang leader, Ben Wade (Ford), Dan finds himself  personally taking the criminal to the town train station so that the outlaw can face court in Yuma. The only catch being, he must evade Wade’s gun toting subordinates in order to accomplish the mission. That, and stay alive.

As Dan’s perception of himself as a man, a father and a husband are put to the test, the concept of heroism is expressed through an inner change of the individual, which proves to stand up in the midst of a society where people are more apt to sit back and watch bad things happen than endanger themselves. So while courage and a badass attitude isn’t something Dan has been swaggering around like most cowboy heroes we think of, the development of his character is what makes 3:10 to Yuma a worty Western.


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