Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
How can we know there’s a God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
Is Jesus Christ God? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
What kind of world would you create? Answer
Hypocrisy in the Church—“I would never be a Christian; they’re a bunch of hypocrites.”
How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer
Every time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are casting a vote telling Hollywood “That’s what I want.” Why does Hollywood continue to promote immoral programming? Are YOU part of the problem?
Russell Crowe … Ben Wade
Christian Bale … Dan Evans
Peter Fonda … Byron McElroy
Ben Foster … Charlie Prince
Kevin Durand … Tucker
Luke Wilson … Zeke
Alan Tudyk … Doc Potter
Logan Lerman … William Evans
Dallas Roberts … Grayson Butterfield
Vinessa Shaw … Emma Nelson
Luce Rains … Marshal Weathers
Gretchen Mol … Alice Evans
See all »
|Director||James Mangold—“Walk the Line” (2005), “Kate and Leopold” (2001), “Girl, Interrupted” (1999)|
|Producer||Ryan Kavanaugh, Lynwood Spinks, Stuart Besser|
|Distributor||Lions Gate Films|
“Time waits for one man”
James Mangold’s film, “3:10 to Yuma,” is a remake of a classic 1957 movie starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford. Much has changed in 50 years. The original movie portrays the outlaw band as ruthless killers, the authorities hunting them as cowards, and the lone farmer as a brave man striving to win the approval of his wife.
In what Mangold calls in one interview his “reinterpreted” version of the movie, the outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is a Bible-quoting killer; Bryan McElroy (Peter Fonda), the bounty hunter hunting them, is a Bible-quoting killer; while Dan Evans the farmer (Christian Bale) is a killer whose primary virtue appears to be that he kills without quoting the Bible.
In Mangold’s moral universe, it’s not killing that’s evil; it’s hypocrisy. Evans’ only concern is getting enough money to buy the water rights to relieve his cattle and crops of the drought. If he has to kill a few outlaws in the process, what’s wrong with that? As long as he doesn’t quote the Bible, the audience will know who the good guy is.
In fact, the characters are all corrupt, even Evans takes money in a cause that he knows requires him to kill to earn it. In that decision, he is no different than the bounty hunter, except that the script portrays him as a good man doing bad things for reasons beyond his control. The morality that such a secular worldview expresses is a bankrupt one. If determinism of one kind or another excuses killing, than why shouldn’t Wade be excused for killing because he was abandoned by his mother or McElroy for killing because his environment bred hate? In other words, there is no moral standard in the movie which decides which of the three characters is “better,” just an arbitrary, political preference for a non-Christian character.
How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
Are we living in a moral Stone Age? Answer
What do many Hollywood celebrities believe about spiritual issues? Answer
The movie self-consciously attacks Christianity, but it teaches nothing because there is nothing that Mangold believes in that he can communicate. For example, there can be no commentary about honor or truth in a movie in which both honor and truth are shown to be hollow principles. The government lies, the Bible lies, and lawmen are cowards, hypocrites, and killers. In such a universe, with such a worldview, what can a propagandistic director like Mangold teach us except to hate the “haters”—the “Christians”?
Indeed, the Bible plays a major role in the movie. Wade quotes and names verses from Proverbs 13:3 (“He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin”) and from Proverbs 21:2 (“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart”). He relates the story of how he was abandoned by his mother when he was eight years. She told him she was coming right back and gave him a Bible to read. For three days he read it, and when he finished it he realized his mother wasn’t returning. I can only surmise that the moral of that tendentious bit of storytelling is that children shouldn’t trust mothers who carry Bibles.
The anti-Christian speeches are over the top. For instance, in the fourth self-conscious reference to Christianity, Wade recounts a slaughter of Indian men, women, and children which begins with killing, proceeds to scalping, and anti-climactically concludes with children crying. This tale is supposed to convince the audience what a horrible man McElroy is, and Wade concludes it by saying: “I guess Byron imagined that Jesus wouldn’t mind. I guess Jesus don’t like the Apache.”
Now, what is one to do with such a stunning display of ignorance of the Christian faith or of the character of Jesus? Unlike Islam and the Koran, which specifically instruct believers to kill non-believers, the New Testament teaches that Christians are to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek when struck, and to give whatever a needy person asks for—all actions modeled by Jesus. Such gross propaganda should disgust Christians, but a few of the Christian students I sat with merely laughed. For them it was too ludicrous to take seriously. In the fifth reference to Christianity, Wade asks McElroy “Did you ever read another book besides the Bible?” McElroy’s predictable answer is “Nope.” The moral there, for audience members too dense to interpret character, is what else can one expect of a mass murderer except that he must be a murderer because he read the Bible?
Perhaps the most ridiculous images in the movie are the three distinct camera shots of Wade’s handgun which has a silver crucifix medallion on the handle. As if that weren’t enough to convey his heavy-breathing message, Mangold made sure to have the characters refer to it as the “hand of God” which contains a “curse on it” (i.e. Jesus).
Finally, in a moment of crisis, Evans says to his wife: “I’ve been standing on one leg for three damned years waiting for God to do me a favor, and he ain’t listening!” That is the movie’s summa: God, if he exists, is indifferent to our sufferings. This isn’t a Christian belief, but somehow it’s supposed to reflect on Christianity? If you don’t believe in God, you can’t blame him for human cruelty; blame humans. If you do believe in God, then you can only know him from the Bible which, the complexity of the Old Testament aside, clearly shows in the New Testament that God is a God of love.
It seems to me that Christians have a simple but stark choice. Either we continue to patronize entertainment which specifically attacks our faith or we don’t. The basis on which we make our decision will reveal the rule by which we live. Do we side with the aesthetic beauty of Mammon, the glittering god of this world, or do we make decisions based on moral principles and a genuine love for God?
“VOTE” WISELY—Every time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are casting a vote telling Hollywood “That’s what I want.”
Either way we must subscribe to one side or the other. Jesus made it clear that we can’t love both and must “hate” one in such a way as to exclude either God or the grosser fruit of the world from our lives. What Aristotle calls “the ruling principle” of our lives is true in a Christian sense as well, as Paul so poignantly describes in Romans 7 or Augustine painfully describes in his autobiographical chapter on stealing pears. This is not a matter of Sunday school morality but a true philosophical dilemma.
Those Christians who justify seeing any amount of violence, of sexuality, or of anti-Christian polemics by parroting the cheap excuse that “all truth is God’s truth” are missing the point in a huge way. The Christian life is not about justification and the freedom we are granted under the cross; apparently for some people, limitless dispensation of grace. The point of the Christian life is sanctification or, to put it another way, maturity: “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God” (Hebrews 6:1). The object of the Christian faith is not to believe in Jesus and live like the devil; it’s to believe in Jesus Christ so that we may live like he lived.
The movie is well-directed, well-acted, beautifully filmed, and effectively mocks Jesus, the Christian faith, and throws in a heavy dosage of anti-Southern bigotry. It always amazes me that people who purport to be “tolerant” when given a chance to express themselves manage to articulate such an unbridled hatred for Southerners and Christians. Are Southerners and Christians really the problem in the world? You wouldn’t know about Islamic terrorism if you depended on Hollywood for your world view.
Avoid this movie, and for the price of just a little more than a single ticket you can purchase the original from Amazon if you’re interested in the story and not in giving the devil his due.
Additional note from the reviewer (Oct. 1, 2007): I understand that some viewers are confused by my judgment of the movie as being anti-Christian. I attribute it to the fact that there is so much anti-Christian material in the media that Christians have become inured to it. There are two ways to know whether a movie is anti-Christian or not:
“You’ve got Peter Fonda defending his murders by quoting Christ; you’ve got Russell Crowe quoting the Old Testament in defense of his killings. An awful lot characters are using the Bible as a justification for violence, and I don’t think that that’s not going on in our society right now, whether it’s on the side of terrorists or on the side of America.” source
If the director explicitly compares people who read the Bible to terrorists, then he is being anti-Christian.