Struggling rancher Dan Evans (Van Heflin) and his young sons are out looking for his cattle when they come across legendary outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) and his gang robbing the Butterfield Stage Coach heading to Bisbee. Outnumbered Dan orders his boys to do as they're told and let Wade get on with out trying to stop him. But Wade doesn't get away with it and in trying to be clever he ends up caught chatting up barwoman Emmy (Felicia Farr) and held till there are enough people to escort him to the train station at Contention. Reluctantly Dan finds himself agreeing to escort the dangerous Wade in the full knowledge at some point Wade's gang will try to free him.
I suppose you could say I have double standards; if someone asked me about a recent movie which uses CG to create beautiful backdrops I am unlikely to be impressed but if you were to ask me about an older movie which features equally stunning backdrops but done without the use of CG I would be blown away. In many ways it is the look which makes the 1957 version of "3:10 to Yuma" so captivating because the cinematography is gorgeous. From the opening scene which opens up to show the burnt soil of a dusky plain to the close up work on Felicia Farr it draws you in with a look which so few westerns from the 1950s came close to capturing. I seriously could go on and on about the look because every single frame is beautiful yet it never feels forced, just good direction and camera work to capitalize of the locations and the faces of the actors.
Moving on to the acting and everyone in "3:10 to Yuma" play their parts well bringing out the depth to their characters. Van Heflin has that edge about him of a man who is just ordinary who finds himself in anything but an ordinary situation as he volunteers for escort service. Not only that he brings out that sense of feeling a failure with him not being courageous enough to take on Wade whilst also having a failing ranch. Meanwhile Glenn Ford is brilliant as Wade because he makes him a confident character, not mean or nasty but someone who behind those staring eyes might be thinking just about anything. It is because Ford and Heflin really deliver on their characters whilst Daves delivers on the look that you cannot take your eyes off of "3:10 to Yuma". There is also a small matter of Felicia Farr as Emmy, a small role but Farr brings out the depth in the character to make her more than just a love interest but a woman who had a past but not works in a quiet, boring saloon and has nothing.
Ironically if "3:10 to Yuma" has a weakness it is in the story, something which was rectified with the later remake, but that isn't saying that this earlier version is poor because the storyline is still wonderful. The character depth as Dan finds himself with Wade at his dinner table charming his wife is brilliant as there is that sense of being hard on himself and feeling that he is a disappointment to his wife who might look else where. As for what happens? Well that synopsis says it but we also have the relationship which forms between Evans and Wade as they end up getting to know one another as they end up in a room together waiting for the train to come.
What this all boils down to is that "3:10 to Yuma" is still a fantastic western, by no means a complicated one and lacking some of the depth of the more recent version but still fantastic. And most of that comes down to the stunning acting and the fantastic look with Delmer Daves creating one of the most gorgeous looking westerns going.