"3:10 to Yuma," which I saw on Friday, is indeed, as a quote from one of the reviews puts it, a Western that plays like an action film. I'm not a huge fan of Westerns, perhaps because I've seen many of them on the small screen. Even "Unforgiven," which I saw with my dad in the theater, left us both kind of stupefied as to how it gained such critical acclaim. I don't remember much about it, except for a vague idea that there was a lot of killing and I didn't believe the characters would really be motivated to do all that killing. Though I do remember liking "Dances with Wolves," though hard-core Western fans would probably laugh at "Dances with Wolves."
I took a chance on "3:10" because I like Russell Crowe and Christian Bale and I enjoyed James Mangold's last film, "Walk the Line," and I was not disappointed. While watching both films, you know where you're going, but you're happy to be along for the ride. In "Walk the Line," you knew Johnny Cash had to shape up before June would like him, and in "3:10," you know Crowe and Bale will get closer, bridging the gap between good guy and villain. But it plays out so naturally that I was totally sucked in.
I saw "Eastern Promises" because I really liked "A History of Violence," the last David Cronenberg-Viggo Mortensen collaboration. Both have this slow, brooding pace, and both are about innocent characters coming into contact with a dark underworld. But "Eastern Promises," has too much underworld, not enough innocence. It's a bit too dark for me, literally and figuratively, as it's set in these dark London streets, and it involves a baby in danger. The much-hyped naked fight scene was amusing and exciting but not shockingly amazing. And while mystery of Viggo Mortensen's character's kept me in it, things didn't quite move along quickly enough.
To be honest, I was nervous about seeing "Into the Wild" -- since I knew it was almost two and a half hours and I knew it focused on only one person, I was worried I would be bored. Plus, I was worried it would hit too close to home, and that I'd be jealous of this guy -- not jealous of his specific adventure, but jealous generally of someone who was willing to just pick up and leave his familiar world and go on his own adventure. And worried that since the movie was boring, I wouldn't be sucked into the movie, and would instead be alone with my thoughts of jealousy.
When I finally saw the movie on Sunday, while it turned out that these worries weren't unfounded, I enjoyed the experience overall. It was slow at times, especially towards beginning. And it hit close to home, and got me all caught up in thinking about my life, and whether I'm living it to the fullest, and whether I should pick up and go out and have an adventure by driving to Costa Rica, or flying to Africa, etc. etc. And having those thoughts and going through that line of thinking was a little frustrating, but also at times felt a little relaxing, and a bit necessary. Watching "Into the Wild" felt a bit like sitting in Yom Kippur services -- the movie prompts your mind to wander off and think about how what you're watching relates to your life, what you could be doing with your life, ways to improve your life.
And despite being a true story, it impressively hits all the literary points that make sense for it to hit. I read the movie as being about the balance between pursuing your own path and connecting to other people, and in each adventure, the main character confronts a different aspect of that main theme. In one he confronts hippies, who are pursuing their own path that, while unconventional, still involves togetherness as opposed to isolation. In another he confronts the idea that his pursuit of isolation means giving up romance. In another he meets a man who's isolation has been forced upon him by his family's death. Eventually, in his pursuit of living life to the fullest by isolating himself in nature, he actually learns the value of connection to others. It's a really great story. It's kind of like "The Wizard of Oz."