Saturday, August 8, 2009

A new appreciation for Westerns

Yesterday, my husband and I watched the newer version of 3:10 to Yuma. Although we watched the movie purely for entertainment, I couldn't help but notice the conventions of the western within the movie. The one that stood out the most was that the good guys were wearing white hats while the bad guys were wearing black hats. Although there were a number of gunfights throughout the movie, the showdown at the end was very exciting. After the good guy (Christian Bale) was killed in the showdown, I half-expected the bad guy (Russell Crowe) to take the good guy's son home and settle down with the good guy's wife. The audience was able to connect with the bad guy because he wasn't all bad. Although he was an outlaw, he respected the good guy and ended up doing a good thing in the end (he killed the rest of his gang and got on the train for prison). Alhtough, the bad guy didn't turn completely good. After he stepped on the train, he whistled for his horse so that he could escape from prison again.

I also started comparing Christian Bales' character, Dan, to John Grady Cole. Dan volunteered to take an outlaw to the train that would take the outlaw to prison. In the end, he had to make a decision on whether or not to go through with it even after everyone else abandoned him and he was outnumbered. However, Dan chose to continue on his mission and do the right thing. Just as John Grady lived his life by a code, Dan tried living his life by the code. Both men strove to do the right and honorable thing. It was this determination to do what was thought to be right (even if it was foolish) was why the bad guy came to respect Dan.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I was never a fan of westerns when I was younger. I liked the Wild Bunch, and I liked Rio Bravo, but I always thought John Wayne was a caricature and I never understood what people saw in the Sergio Leone movies. I think as I got a little more critically sophisticated I started to see conventions as existing like grammar in language. Understanding the conventions made the films more satisfying in the same ways that grammar makes everything possible within language. That is to say that once there's a theme, then there can be variation. This has made me more appreciative of westerns--I wouldn't call myself a fan, yet. Unforgiven floored me--it was the first movie I'd seen in a long time that I was willing to watch on consecutive nights.