Decent westerns have been in such short supply for so long, the arrival of a near-great one calls for some celebratory gunslinging. It helps, of course, if that western in question is a remake of a classic “ in this case, 1957’s “3:10 to Yuma” starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin.
Based on an Elmore Leonard short story, this update soars on the strength of good old-fashioned storytelling, enough to make it one of the best flicks of 2007. Christian Bale is struggling rancher Dan Evans, a Civil War veteran who hopes to regain the respect of his wife and family by helping transport criminal gang leader Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) across the hard-scrabble Arizona territory to catch the train bound for the Yuma prison.
Director James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) is more craftsman than artist, and that no-frills sturdiness serves him well here. The action is exciting and clearly staged, the suspense palpable. And the characters are surprisingly rich. Actors don’t come more committed than Bale and Crowe, and both turn in powerful performances, although Ben Foster steals nearly every scene in which he shows up as Wade’s cold-blooded right-hand man.
The DVD’s extras include an informative commentary by Mangold and a smattering of perfunctory featurettes.