“Lots of things happen where all you can do is stand by and watch.”
A destitute farmer (Van Heflin) and a drunk (Henry Jones) are hired by stagecoach company owner Mr. Butterfield (Robert Emhardt) to accompany an outlaw (Glenn Ford) to Contention City, where the 3:10 train will take him to prison in Yuma. In the meantime, Ford’s posse — led by Richard Jaeckel — plots to rescue him, while Ford tries to bribe Heflin into letting him go.
This character-driven western, directed by Delmer Daves, tells a simple yet taut tale of a weary family man (Heflin) who wants nothing more than to keep his farm afloat, and the cocky outlaw (Ford) who gradually grows to admire his principles. In essence, it’s an extended cat-and-mouse narrative, as each man carefully plays off the other; along the way, we’re asked to question — primarily through the character of Heflin’s spitfire teenage son, who’s eminently scornful of his “wimpy” dad — what it means to “be a man” and stand up for one’s self. Heflin is appropriately complex and troubled in the lead role, but it’s Glenn Ford’s turn as Ben Wade which most impresses — his intense performance never misses a beat. Unfortunately, 3:10‘s ending takes an unexpected turn which beggars belief and goes far beyond reasonable expectations — but it’s difficult to fault the script (based on an Elmore Leonard short story) too harshly, given the fine ride until then.
P.S. 3:10 has achieved renewed interest given the compelling 2007 remake by James Mangold, starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. Interestingly, the new film — fine in nearly every respect — sports an equally unsatisfying ending.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Glenn Ford as Ben Wade
- Atmospheric direction by Delmer Daves
- Fine b&w cinematography
- A satisfying script
Yes, simply for Ford’s performance.