Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gary North's Failed Calvinist Understanding of "3:10 to Yuma"

I liked the film; LewRockwell.com's Gary North did not — The Most Spectacular Clunker in the History of the Western. This is not the first time I have disagreed with Mr. North on a Western; here is his panning of a 1943 film that made "honorable mention" on my Top Five Westerns list — How Liberals Killed the Western: A Case Study. It must be his wacky Christian Reconstructionism that puts us at odds.

Mr. North calls 3:10 to Yuma (2007) an "incomparable monstrosity" and its ending "utterly incoherent if this movie is about a bad man going good." Perhaps it is his puny theology that disallows him from seeing the obvious fact that the film is not about a bad man going good; it is about a bad man moved in the direction of goodness, moved in that direction — haltingly, incompletely — by the uncompromising moral integrity of his antagonist, the film's hero, a Christ figure if there ever was one.

The film has a profoundly Christian message, whether the director is a professing Christian or not. It is not by superior firepower or ingenuity that the villain is defeated, if only temporarily as the film's ending suggests, but by virtue itself. The villain recognizes, in himself and his henchmen, that evil is ultimately very boring and limiting, no matter how hard he tries to convince the hero and his companions otherwise. Virtue is simply more compelling, the villain comes to realize, and so cooperates, if only momentarily, in his own downfall. The film approaches the moral complexity of Catholic John Ford's The Searchers (1956), the greatest Western and greatest film ever made.

(Interestingly, and parenthetically, only the late, great Roger Ebert notices the homoerotic subtext, involving "Charlie Prince, the second-in-command of Wade's gang, who seems half in love with Wade, or maybe Charlie's half-aware that's he's all in love" — 3:10 to Yuma Movie Review & Film Summary (2007). The moment the character appeared on the screen, my admittedly limited gaydar kicked in and I thought, "Who's this creepy gay guy?" I mean, it looked like the guy was wearing mascara. Why did not other reviewers see this? I guess if homosexuality is portrayed in anything other than the most positive, affirming light possible, it must be ignored.)

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Blogger Manfred Arcane said...

My five best Westerns:

1) The Searchers
2) The Wild Bunch
3) The Professionals
4) Wagonmaster
5) She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Honorable Mention; The Magnificent Seven

September 11, 2013 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger M. Jordan Lichens said...

The Searchers is a fantastic film that transcends the genre. It's one of the top five films in history and certainly has some profound moral dimensions.

For me, though, I've always been a sucker for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It's a simpler plot but became an epic in every sense of the world in scope. The last 30 minutes are the pinnacle of cinema.

September 11, 2013 at 11:14 PM  

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