Funny thing. It's not a movie that any marketer would target towards women.
Photo: Bale and Crowe, found here.
It's got two women characters. Both are little more than cameos. The rest is about men, for men, and full of men.
In fact, 3:10 to Yuma taught me more about masculinity-- the traditional, responsible, head-of-household kind-- than any other film, maybe that I've ever seen.
Westerns have never been engaging to me. I have never believed the world that Westerns created. When a gunslinger rides into town with its ploughed dirt main street and its one row of wood structures, to me this screams Movie Set.
Also, I must admit in my wimpiness, the violence is never any fun.
But for some reason the world of 3:10 engaged me-- the same way that the Roman world of Gladiator did. In both pictures, the actors seemed to believe they were in that world.
Russell Crowe was in both pictures, too. This probably had something to do with it. For sure he is one of the best things about 3:10. He is the villain Ben Wade and a fully-realized 3-D character.
And there was Christian Bale, whom I did not recognize, the hero, rancher Dan Evans, a gaunt everyman playing his role as if his life depended on it.
The cussing made it more believable, too. And the killing, though frequent, made sense.
The story wasn't anything complicated. Rancher, kicked around his whole life, is struggling to keep his piece of land from railroad speculators. Helps capture highly dangerous villain, who must be transported to Contention, Arizona from Bisbee, Arizona to be put on a prison train. Villain's highly dangerous gang wants to spring him. No one wants to volunteer to take villain-- except rancher.
Those are the bare bones. It is a plot from 1957, when the first version of this movie was made.
Yet it captured me.
Here's the reason: existentialism.
Yes, I know. Fatal Nerd Vision. But it's true.
Existentialism is the radical philosophy that the most authentic and worthwhile life is that which is lived taking full responsibility for all of one's choices. No whining, no excuses, no fear. Jean-Paul Sartre, the most primary articulator of the philosophy, also advised no religion, which he considered a kind of excuse.
The main character, Dan Evans, is a play-fair kind of guy, certainly a God-fearing man, a Civil War veteran who was wounded in the foot and had it amputated. His younger son has tuberculosis. He's in debt. There's been a drought. His wife and older son have lost faith in him, and God hasn't been answering his prayers. If anyone ever had the right to quit, it's him.
And a lot of men in this day and age have decided to do just that. A lot of men today have opted out of the family-man role.
It didn't happen overnight.
It's been a wacky last 50 years. In the 1940's, World War II reaffirmed traditional, leadership-oriented, head-of-household masculinity. In the 1950's, Westerns codified that way of being. Then women's liberation arrived in the sixties, and all bets were off. In the seventies there was the sexual revolution. In the eighties, the career woman and yuppie. In the nineties, Hillary Clinton became the most influential first lady ever. And now, in the 21st century, Hillary is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president.
Women's status has increased astronomically since the Westerns, leaving men scratching their heads. If women can do anything men can, what is a man supposed to do? It's a confusing time.
Dan is initially confused, too. He doesn't see a way out of losing his ranch, until he gets the opportunity to escort the villain Wade to the train, for enough money to get his land out of debt.
Dan has the opportunity-- throughout the movie, in fact-- to bug out. He sees the danger, but knows what's important, and goes after it, fearlessly.
That is so refreshing, somehow.
It is truly inspiring to see a three-dimensional, imperfect yet good-hearted movie hero live by his principles-- and these are play-fair, family-man, leadership-oriented principles, like in the 1950's. His intention is both to preserve his family and to satisfy himself. Wow. That's powerful.
It makes a guy want to walk a little taller, with a jingle, as he goes back to his everyday life.
As a college freshman, I was fascinated and repulsed by Existentialism. I was just becoming familiar with the advantages and limitations of relationships with other people. It terrified me to think I would have to be on my own.
Now that I'm middle-aged, it makes more sense. If you are a man and going to live this life, do it with full realization of what you want to get out of it. If you want to be responsible and play fair, do it. Be proud of it. Don't be afraid of anyone or anything, because you understand the worth of what you want.
So much more to say about this one. Maybe in another post.
See you in Contention, pardner.