Synopsis: A rancher (Christian Bale) struggles to support his ranch and family during a long drought. Desperately needing money to build a well, he takes an assignment to transport a notorious felon (Russell Crowe), in the hands of authorities, to Yuma for imprisonment. But, once the two meet, the interactions between the two men and those surrounding them reveal surprising facets of each.
The “Western” genre in film has pretty much always been about morality in the setting of armed participants. Free agents exploring what’s possible or likely when will is authenticated by firepower. This modern re-make of the original 1957 film explores the interaction of evil and good, peeling back the layers of each to expose complex shades. The film has been criticized as “boring” but that superficial observation misses the subtlety. The principal actors, Christian Bale, Russell Crowe and especially Ben Foster as Crowe’s faithful henchman, literally burn with understated intensity for which one must develop a taste. I think Christian Bale is the most remarkable actor working today. Consummate pro Russell Crowe never disappoints. You can’t take your eyes off Ben Foster.
The point of film is to move the observer to a different world and make them an active participant. You feel what the actors feel and you live in their world for a time. This goal isn’t limited to “good” film. It is equally intense in incredibly bad film like “Patch Adams” or “What Dreams May Come”, films so bad they threaten the concept of film. This is “Good” film because you become part of a texture of intensity that leaves you emotionally exhausted but optimistic as to the basic nature of man. A very subtle but powerful exploration, performed by masters. Possibly the second best Western ever made, after “One-Eyed Jacks (Brando – 1961)
I give it four and a half out of five steely eyed glances.