3.10 to Yuma

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A classic Western scenario, adapted from a short story by Elmore Leonard. For $200, the sum he desperately needs to save his land from drought, a small-time farmer (Heflin) agrees to escort a notorious outlaw (Ford) to the state penitentiary in Yuma; holed up in a hotel to await the train, with the outlaw's gang gathering in force outside, the escort finds himself in effect the prisoner; nevertheless, although the financial inducement evaporates (he's offered more to let matters slide by both the outlaw and the town's alarmed mayor), he insists on fulfilling his contract. It's of necessity a talkative film, with Ford working on Heflin's nerves in a stream of Machiavellian banter, but one held in perfect balance by Daves, who keeps the tension strung taut (especially in the gauntlet-running final walk to the station) while at the same time elaborating a subtle psychological conflict. The nerve centre is exposed in an early scene where Heflin, the dour family man careworn by responsibilities, watches as his wife and sons come under the spell of Ford's carefree charm: the conflict, ultimately, stems from each man's envy of what the other has.

By: TM

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