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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Deadly Outlaw

3:10 to Yuma (2007) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Late at night on the homestead fourteen-year-old William Evans (Logan Lerman) reads from his favorite Dime Novels the story of “The Deadly Out­law.” The muted beat of horse hooves is heard out­side. “Dan …,” cabin­wife Alice Evans (Gretchen Mol) nudges her sleeping man (Christian Bale). ¶“Maybe it's the wind,” he hopes. Not the way his luck is going.

Dan had enlisted in the Massachusetts Militia that was then tasked with the defense of D.C. during the Civil War. In his only action he was in a retreat when friendly fire gave him a game leg. He married Alice, and when one of their two sons had respiratory problems, he moved them to the drier climate of Arizona and bought a ranch. He borrowed money from a disreputable business­man Glen Hollander (Lennie Loftin) who screwed with Dan's water rights and now wants Dan's nonproductive land—the coming rail­road will increase its value. In a hurry to get Dan gone, those are Hollister's men out­side torching the barn (“You have a week, Evans. Then we torch the house.”)

In the morning Dan saddles up for town to confront Hollister, saying, “I'll take care of this.” “No, you won't,” replies William dis­respect­fully. On the ride to Bisbee, they encounter a coach robbery in progress by the deadly outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang. Wade's been making a killing having as good luck as Dan has bad. Unfortunately for Wade, though, he's delayed in town by saloon lovely Emma Nelson (Vinessa Shaw), and he gets taken. The law needs one more volunteer to make up the armed escort to catch the 3:10 to Yuma after which “The South Pacific will have Ben convicted in a federal court. Hanged in public. An example made.” Dan, ever the reservist, enlists (“I was best shot in my regiment. I'll come for $200.”)

On the trek to Contention, Arizona Territory, Ben's luck continues to be good, and Dan's bad, until Ben's rescue force is over­whelming while Dan who started out as the odd man to make up the number has ended up the sole (gimpy) escort. And he won't take the easy out that would diminish what little respect his son has left for him.


It gradually becomes evident that Ben has an eidetic memory. “My crew know every road to Ft. McChukah,” he tells us. He can recite the salary, benefits, and score card of killings by his nemesis Pinkerton guard Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda.) He recognizes faces he's seen in a crowd (“You ever worked for a one-eyed Irishman in Leadville?”) He has a penchant for quoting the Bible—Proverbs quite accurately—and here's how he learned it:

I read the bible, one time. I was eight years old. My daddy just got hisself killed over a shot of whiskey and my mama said “we're going back East to start over”. So she gave me a bible, sat me down in the train station, told me to read it. She was gonna get our tickets. Well, I did what she said. I read that bible from cover to cover. It took me three days. She never came back.

For honoring his mother, Ben was a beneficiary of God's promise in, (Deut. 5:16) “Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee.” Ben tells Byron, “Even bad men love their mommas.” It has gone well with Ben (“Farmers give me shelter and ranchers give me food. Judges let me off and jailers let me out.”) When Byron lets slip they're taking Ben to Contention “to [catch] the 3:10 to Yuma day after tomorrow” and woners if he should have kept mum, Ben replies tongue in cheek, “Relax, friend. Now if we get separated, I'll know where to meet up.” That's like a Briar Rabbit motif. The Briar Rabbit implored the fox not to throw him into the briar patch, but the briar patch was his natural habitat from which he could easily escape. The train station was the focus of Ben's honoring his mom, reading his Bible, and applying the Proverbs enough to curry favor from men.

The 3:10 to Yuma was out of Contention City, and the train was late. From an artistic stand­point we need to find a reference 3:10 that comes right after a verse on contention in the Bible. Titus 3:9 is about avoiding contentions, after which comes, (Titus 3:10) “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject.” Now, if you want to join Ben's gang, there's some good news and some bad news. Tommy is the perfect illustration.

[after shooting Tommy Darden]

Ben Wade: Well, Tommy, it seems that there was a Pinkerton inside that coach that wasn't quite dead yet. Now, I know Charlie told you, because we done got but a few rules in this outfit. And this is what happens when you put us all at risk.


Charlie Prince: [giving a toast] Here's to the four we lost in battle. And here's to the boss, who had to say goodbye to Tommy Darden today. And that's too bad.

Ben Wade: Proverbs 13:3. “He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his life. He that opens his lips too wide shall bring on his own destruction.”

Charlie Prince: Amen.

Ben Wade: Tommy was weak. Tommy was stupid. Tommy is dead.

Charlie Prince: I'd drink to that.

The good news is there's only a few rules in this outfit. The bad news is you don't get many chances to break them before you're “rejected.” Unfortunately for Tommy, putting the outfit at risk is some­thing they have a rule against. Under­standing this, you'll under­stand the dynamic of the plot. Ben had been given hospitality in a domestic setting at Dan's ranch. Maybe Alice's green eyes reminded him of his mother. Maybe Ben sympathized with Dan trying to gain the respect of his kid. At any rate some­where on the journey to the train station—that Ben doesn't find all that threatening—Ben befriends Dan, including him under his protection, wanting him to succeed, if he's determined, to get him on the 3:10 to Yuma. If his gang jeopardizes this new addition to the "family", well, they've broken the rule and that's too bad. Reminds me of Stalin's loyalties, as described by historical fiction writer David Robbins:

Some family I've been given. Do you hear me? My second wife, Nadezhda, the f___ing suicide. Her sister Anna is a spy. Anna's husband was shot ten years ago, an enemy of the people. His brother another spy. Your brother, a drunkard. Your sister, a shrew. My family, a nest of spies and traitors and loud­mouths. (184–5)

But I need look no further than myself for example. I diligently read the (King James) Bible over the last 45 years and much of it bubbles around in my memory. In my review of “The Grass Is Greener” (1960) I note the verse, (Prov. 22:6) “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” According to Pastor Criswell, “The phrase ‘in the way he should go’ is more literally trans­lated ‘according to his way’,” but from the more recently para­phrased Living Bible it's, “Teach a child to choose the right path.” Ben in “Yuma” cites, (Prov. 21:2) “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.” My current preacher used the New Living Translation (NLT) in his sermon on the Prov. 22 verse, but seems to have neglected Prov. 21. I'm sure my immediate church and yours will raise their kids right, but every parent does what's right in his own eyes, so I can't support preaching from the popular NLT read far and wide that gives such blanket approval. It's the LORD who ponders the heart, who wants children nourished according to their natural dispos­itions, in career or what­ever, to settle them­selves into a stable life­style. In a sense I've accepted unknown children from the community at large into my “out­fit”, wanting them to succeed, even though I must reject a Bible version my preacher uses.

The same thing can be said about the New International Version (NIV) that paraphrases 1Cor. 7:39 to make an absolute prohibition against mixed marriages (Christian with nonchristian), which strict prohibition is not in the original, as I've discussed in a posting on that chapter. Ben's verse, (Prov. 13:3) “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction,” applies to the NIV that's a dynamic translation (i.e. idea for idea) as opposed to a formal equivalence trans­lation, and as such opens its mouth too wide in what it prints. Although my church itself is not so strict against mixed marriages, the popular NIV is read far and wide, so I reject its reading in, say, our Bible studies, as I've accepted those mixed marriages and don't want them jeopardized.

Production Values

The movie “3:10 to Yuma” (2007) is a remake of an earlier Delmer Daves's 1957 film version of “3:10 to Yuma.” The 2007 film is heavier on action. It was shot on location in the west. It was directed by James Mangold. It's a screen adaptation by Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt, and Derek Haas of a short story by Elmore Leonard that was published in “Dime Western Magazine” in 1953. It stars Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Peter Fonda, Ben Foster and Logan Lerman. Also starring are Gretchen Mol as Alice Evans, Vinessa Shaw as Emma Nelson and Luke Wilson as Zeke. The best support is from Ben Foster with the memorable role as Wade's right-hand man Charlie Prince. Christian Bale and Russell Crowe are superb in their roles, both giving super­lative perfor­mances. Gretchen Mol does fine in her small role as Dan's wife Alice.

MPAA rated it R for violence and some language. Music is by Marco Beltrami. The bleak landscape and dusty atmosphere of Arizona is captured with accuracy by cinema­tog­rapher Phedon Papamichael, and emphasizing the poverty of the Evans's spread. An authentic Gatling Gun is used in the coach robbery scene.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is a first-rate adult Western drawing its drama and power from the interaction of fine drawn characters as well as from gun-blazing action. Our “deadly outlaw” to some extent blurs the line between good guy and bad guy. He was good to the ranchers and common people. The rich cats he robbed from were awful. He quoted the Bible in context, and the movie title itself hints at a biblical reference. If you at all like westerns, this one should do it for you.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Better than watching TV. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Movie quotes are supplemented from deleted scenes.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

The Criswell Study Bible. Authorized King James Version. Nashville | Camden: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1979. Print.

The Living Bible. Previously published under the title Living Psalms and Proverbs, 1967. Copy­right © 1971 by Tyne­dale House Publishes. Print.

Robbins, David L. The End of War. New York: Bantam Books, 2000. Print.