They don’t make many westerns these days, but this solid, emotionally complex reworking of the classic 1957 film (from an Elmore Leonard short story) makes you kind of wish they would. It pits charming-but-ruthless outlaw Russell Crowe against Christian Bale’s honest-but-poor rancher, and it’s a pleasure to watch these two work together. Dan Evans (Bale) hires on to help transport captured train robber Ben Wade (Crowe) to the railhead for the title train to Yuma Prison and a hangman’s noose. During the short journey, they must deal with hostile Indians, angry vigilantes and the remnants of Wade’s vicious gang, never far behind, led by the psychopath Charlie Prince (a very good Ben Foster). Rounding out the cast are Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk and Gretchen Mol. The film explores the themes of fatherhood, manhood and honor, but doesn’t neglect to throw in a few shoot-’em-ups, lest things get too cerebral. Directed by James Mangold, who did the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. By the time the suspenseful and well-paced finale rolls around, Dan and Ben have formed a grudging mutual respect, and the resolution is as fitting as it is gut-wrenching.
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