Monday, October 01, 2007

3:10 to Yuma

Last weekend our Friday night movie group went out for dinner and to see the Russell Crowe/Christian Bale western remake 3:10 to Yuma (rated R for lots of violence). Was it good? Not in the cheering, uplifting, makes you feel good for a week after you've seen it kind of good. But it was... fascinating. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are my two favorite actors and they were mesmerizing, especially Crowe. Together they had tremendous chemistry.

The whole movie was exquisitely cast and put together. The acting was amazing and you just had to keep watching. You never knew what would happen next, and you wanted very much for everything to resolve satisfactorily, though you didn't know how that could be pulled off, and not even what would be satisfactory. For me the ending was like having the rug pulled out from under me. And yet... as time has passed... it was the right ending.

I never know until the next day whether a movie is really good or not. Some turn out to be full of icky things I wish I'd never seen. Some never enter my mind again, to the point I can't even remember seeing them. Not so, 3:10 to Yuma. I couldn't get its images -- particularly scenes of Crowe -- out of my mind, all day Saturday. Scenes I responded positively to, even though he played the villain. But not until I went to bed Saturday night, and a torrent of thoughts and realizations swept through my mind, did I really understand what was going on there.

Right after the movie our group had discussed whether or not the Bale character's uprightness had softened the Crowe character and changed him at the end. We had differing views, and I was more on the side that he'd been changed. In that moment Saturday night I saw that I was wrong. Ben Wade, the train robber and killer played by Russell Crowe, was not only a sociopath, but a type of Satan. Or even the cosmic system personified.

He was attractive, likeable, intelligent, knowledgable, artistic, charming, competent, gentle and generous at times... And turned into a vicious, cold blooded, extremely efficient killer in the blink of an eye. More than that, he had no conscience. He took what he wanted and did what he wanted without regard for anyone else, and no one could stop him.What was fascinating to me was not just that all the characters in the movie were to one degree or another pulled under his spell, but that I was, too.

Only afterward did I see how much I had liked Ben Wade -- against all sense -- and therefore wanted him to be reformed. I wanted to believe he did indeed have some good in him that would eventually come out and everything work out right and good...somehow. Even though I knew very well the horrible things he'd done. Even though logic said, "These things cannot be ignored. For justice to be served he has to die..." Incredibly, my emotion obscured the logic, and my attraction to him caused me to overlook and minimize his crimes. To make them somehow justified.

After all, the first guy he killed was a traitor. And the guy he killed with the fork was extremely obnoxious... and had done his share of lawless deeds, as well. And the next one... ah, but the details aren't important here. What fascinated me was how I could be made to like something about the character so much that I would overlook obvious, even heinous elements of who he was and project positive elements of my own values upon him. In short the power of his charisma caused me to deceive myself, and turn him into something he wasn't.


And that is only one of many elements woven together throughout this picture. I love the complexity and the layers and the way so many things were interwoven. Christian Bale's character was another gold mine of reflection and discussion.

This movie provides a great illustration of how we allow ourselves to be deceived in life; of how Satan and his Cosmic system minions operate, offering things that don't deliver what they seem to promise and leave us used up and discarded...

So was it good? I'd say it was. But definitely not for the kiddos.