"False face must hide what the false heart doth know" Shakespeare
This is a kick ass action western with a "classic" heart and soul. Christian Bale is the heart of this movie and Russel Crowe is its soul. They come into the movie with diametrically opposed moral senses and eventually develop a karma bond that gives this movie its classic mojo. Crowe is the killer with the silver tongue and dark spirit while Bale is Dan Evans, the peg legged war veteran and rancher hungry for respect from his family. Crowe`s Ben wade is feared and respected for his strength (in all its evil form) while Bale envies that kind of power. Crowe, in turn ,comes to envy the crippled Dan Evans, a man of sacrifice. This is a pot of acting heat that boils into karma power!
Russell Crowe needs to be watched. He is a force of "acting nature" who really starts this movie in a walk. I thought maybe he had just shown up for the payday and was cruising through the part. But after watching the evil that Ben Wade can do to a fool with only a fork, then he`s got our "bad ass" attention. And we see cracks in the armor of his sociopathic soul when a young boy questions his motives. "I can`t do something good, it might become a habit" Ben Wade. Then follow his transformation and watch for the "moment" when his acting genius really shines through.
Bale explores a vulnerability and sense of duty to his family that is probably the best acting he`s done. His emotional angst bleeds onto the screen through a heroic transformation that conquers the devil in Crowe`s soul. This is serious good guy and bad guy shite that will stand the test of movie time.
Life has not been fair to either of these characters and they evolved in completely different worlds that could be expected to settle into a classic "cowboy" shootout, but that would be too routine. And Director James Mangold doesn`t choose routine. He uses Peter Fonda as a crusty Pinkerton agent and Ben Forster as Crowe`s psycho, sicko gang member, and runs the action onto a ticking clock that ramps up our interest. Bale will try to take Crowe`s character through the town streets to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. The action for the movie`s final scene is fast and violent with transformation and bonding of both characters ringing true.
The final minute of Crowe`s soul felt change becomes the movie moment. Watch his face, read his emotion and anger in a look that only a great actor could generate on this level. Then back to Bale and know his relief, his pride. If you really love movies this final scene and moment are about as good as it gets this year on the big screen. Special scenes like this are the magic that rings the "classic movie" bell loud and clear. This is the film that you can use as a model for your screenwriting class. Simple, powerful, transformational, action packed and a draw for good actors. Another keeper for a cowboy classics collection!