Putting Russell Crowe and Christian Bale together in this movie was a master-stroke. They take opposing roles as the film romps along and the conflict (and then friendship) which develops between them makes for some gripping, nasty and touching moments.
This isn't one of those slowly paced, meandering modern westerns where it takes forever and a day for nothing much to happen. This is a vigh-velocity romp with plenty of wham! and bam! In 3:10 To Yuma the characters develop through blood, sweat and tears (punctuated by gunfire and fist fights).
Bale is a failing farmer, a cripple, who feels he's letting down his family and in particular his oldest son. Crowe is a high-living outlaw, used to ruling the roost and robbing whoever he can. Their paths cross when Crowe is captured and Bale agrees to join the guards who will take the prisoner to catch the prison train (that's the 3:10 to Yuma).
So that sets the scene for a road journey, one where the two men get to know each other, understand more about each other, fight each other, ride horses, sit round campfire, get beaten up -- all that good western stuff. The pace of the film is rapid, so it doesn't sit around dwelling on each point, but clips along to the next fight, the next showdown, the next twist.
There are moments of sweeping action on the plains and in the railroad yards, backed with gritted-teeth drama as the farmer's son starts to admire the outlaw -- his father can't compete with the glamorous gun-slinger who effortlessly charms the women, and provides exactly the wrong role model for the boy.
Bale's character can't quite believe that Crowe really is 100% bad, and that he's completely beyond redemption. Crowe keeps proving, brutally, that he really IS a bad man. Yet in the end, both characters find a form of redemption, via a shower of bullets and a heart-stopping chase sequence. It's one of the best showdown sequences I've ever seen, across the clapboard walkways, through the barns and alleyways and on the roofs of a frontier town.
3:10 to Yuma is over two hours long but it flies by. If you missed it at the movies then definitely watch it now. It's one of the best westerns to come along for years -- all guns blazing...