Stories about moral conflict and mythology have been parts of American films for the simple reason that they effectively depict the innate and fundamental nature of American life. This is aside from the fact that Americans, through such films, are given the chance to recognize and accept myth in its most fundamental condition. One such specific or concrete example of American mythology, which likewise manifests ethical conflict within a society, is the Western tales. Myths, when told or visualized in movies, allow certain genres such as Western film to remind and show people the strong version of American roots, as well as the marginal spirit that definitely clicked and became an accepted part of the culture. The western origin is the myth or original story of Americans since it tells who the real Americans are right from the start. Simply put, there is a scarcity in American history other than those which social anthropology depicts from real moral struggle of both the past and modern societies.
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The golden period of Hollywood and during a good time of the past century has showed how the Western myth became an essential part of any American's creative and artistic diets. Such traditional knowledge was too penetrated that it is inclined to represent American culture or society by itself. Although through the years, the American movie industry has somehow given up on Western myth as staple component and agent of ethical conflicts of the society, a number of film endeavors like the 2007 movie “3:30 to Yuma” has proven that Americans have not really grown out of such kind of social anthropology or mythology. Aside from the saving powers of its lead stars Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, the said film was both a moving and effective representation of the Western's enduring appeal and the age-old conflicts that never cease to exist nor leave the previous and contemporary societies.
Aside from proving that Western myth is a universally-accepted film genre, “3:10 to Yuma” has successfully brought out an excellent portrayal from Crowe and Bale. The former as Ben Wade is a true-blooded criminal or gangster who is constantly on the run and is able to escape but who definitely has a great respect for human personality. On the other hand, Bale as Dan Evans is an honest-to-goodness father and a law-abiding man but whose entire life has actually nothing to prove not until he was paid as one of the escorts who will lead Wade into prison from the 3:10 to Yuma train. These two main characters have actually made it difficult for the public to identify or distinguish who is who. In fact, they have actually interchanged as the hero and villain in this James Mangold's version of the Western (cowboy) myth which made the film a must-see and, ultimately, a useful element to the modern-day Western resurgence (“3:10 to Yuma” Motion Picture, 2007).
Although a remake of the 1957 movie under the same title, 3:10 to Yuma is a modern-day representation of a typical Western story wherein a struggling rancher-father risks his life by taking a criminal to his train schedule and has a tryst with the law. Since the original film was both an insufficient yet pleasing Western portrayal, the contemporary version has proven its effectivity when it comes to sincerely depicting the real nature of Western life. This is because the 1957 film centered with the psychology of its personalities instead with the social anthropology of the Western frontier. Even though it elaborated on the cowboy myth and justifiably secured the utilization of brutality in a movie, the 2007 version has lived up to honestly respecting the true Western spirit as best as it can, which was pretentiously presented by the original (“3:10 to Yuma” Motion Picture, 2007).
A refreshing rather than a worn portrayal of the normal Western myth conflict which existed between law-abiding and law-breaker Evans and Bale, respectively, was what the movie has intensely represented. In fact, these unusually effective rather than traditional manifestations of typical Western characters have resulted in difficulty in determining who fit the opposing yet complementing characters of Bale and Evans. This is because the typical Western mythology has subjected villain character of Bale as the hated role and the hero persona of Evans as the well-loved Cowboy. However, “3:10 to Yuma” has somehow intriguingly depicted that behind the distinctive Western get-up, Evans has superficially posed as a law-abiding cowboy out to bring a law-breaker Bale into the hands of justice but who is actually doing the job in exchange of $200 payment and in order to appease his son who openly regard his futile righteousness.
Meanwhile, Bale opposed the conventional Western aura with modern furnishings and whose cheerful charm actually concealed both his being a remorseless yet at the same time an honest Western man. In effect, the particular cowboy character of Bale enabled him to impress and impact the two characters closest to Evans' life—his wife and son (“3:10 to Yuma” Motion Picture, 2007).
The said struggle between the lives of the two Western characters is evidently the same moral or ethical conflict that has long been existing in American society, both the past and the modern day one. The departure schedule of the train which provided the film its title “3:10 to Yuma” and the whole Western dispute that Bale and Evans represented are actually an ultimate description of the moral conflicts that the American society possesses. Just like the risk of escorting the journey of Bale to his train that will eventually lead him to his prison, the Americans, as members of the society, are into a difficult commute in their daily lives.
The contemporary American society is still faced with the influence of the Western myth and along the way, is laden with a lot of internal and external struggles such as conflict within the American family as well as among families and sectors of the society, respectively. Similar to the Western movie wherein Bale's gang is waiting along the way and ready to fight it out with the escorts including Evans, the American society is likewise susceptible to many risks and conflicts.
It was worthy to note, however, that despite the grueling cowboy-style conflict between Evans and Bale, the two found an unlikely brotherhood. This bonding has somehow allowed the two to somehow open up and soften their characters that in the end offered the viewers’ confessional occasions. In addition, it brought out moral or ethical themes that promote unity and give-and-take relationship rather than pose further risk within the society. While the Western myth has instilled in both past and modern American society a sort of conflict, it allowed for realization that it is actually the desire to survive that brings out one's tendency to morally or ethically struggle with others.
In this sense, the above Western movie has redeemed its worth as not just an ordinary cowboy-type film that showcased gun fighting among characters out to break the law. At the end of the movie, it saw Evans and Bale both as hero and villain. Their opposing yet moving portrayals of Western life are actual representations or descriptions of how American moral conflicts fabricate the realities of life. It is like while Evans accepted the risky escorting job in his struggle to have a decent living, and in order to earn the respects of his family, it turned out it is also what Bale aspire for. Hence, despite Bale's continued breaking of law, he showed honesty in establishing a sincere relationship with Evan's son for him to also acquire dignity which he failed to achieve in his portrayal of gang life.
Only few Western movies are able to manifest the difficulty and struggle of having a simple yet decent living in an American society and “3:10 to Yuma” is one of them. While the movie was a modern day presentation of the old Western myth, its has successfully and effectively describe actual ethical conflicts such as the Evans struggle to pay an escalating debt and Bale's conflict among his gang cohorts and within the society on how to become a law-abiding Western character. Setting aside complications, the movie has proven to be a pleasant Western film which is filled to project old models and at the same time portraying a reasonably inflexible attitude to its characters.
It actually hit an impartial balance between physical and psychological actions. It was able to present the distinctive personalities of Evans and Bale while at the same time allowed the two Western men to complement each other and bring out the best or what is lacking with each other. Ultimately, it created a rewarding and redeeming resolution in the end by having the two varying cowboy men acknowledge and respond to a far-fetched relationship that portrays the disgrace of a father, suffering of a son and the dignity of outlaw.
Welles, H., Brandt, M. & Haas, D. (2007). 3:10 to Yuma. Relativity Media & Three Line Films.
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