Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Essentials: 3:10 to Yuma

"There is a lonely train,
Called the 3:10 to Yuma.
The pounding of the wheels,
Is more like a mournful sigh."

Some movies are so perfect and so perfectly suited to a specific viewer that they're nearly impossible to write about.

I feel myself overwhelmed by 3:10 to Yuma. It is so easily watchable. That beautiful theme, sung by Frankie Laine over the opening credits, is a haunting little song. It recurs throughout the film. Sometimes, as a strand of the score. Sometimes, as a wistful whistle from the characters acting out a drama larger than themselves, the whistle an acknowledgment that all are caught up in stories and forces and functions that are far beyond their control. All of this to highlight and underscore that each moment is within our control as far as every choice we make matters.

"There's a legend and there's a rumour.
When you take the 3:10 to Yuma,
You can see the ghosts,
Of outlaws go riding by, (riding by)
In the sky (in the sky),
'Way up high."

This is a movie that one needs to submit to immediately. If the Lane song doesn't transport you into a realm of legends and rumours, then you're not in the right frame of mind to watch this movie. At the same time that the movie approaches tall tale territory, it is rooted in an insistently grim realism, the tale of a family farmer at the mercy of the elements. Everything he has worked for in his life could be lost because of something out of his control. Taking ahold of what one can control and seeing it through is one key theme of the film.

"The buzzards keep circling the train,
While below the cattle are thirsting for rain.
It's also true they say,
On the 3:10 to Yuma,
A man can meet his fate.
For fate travels everywhere."

The family farmer is given choices. He's given opportunities. And he acts on them regardless of the difficulty and the danger. This is a simple and a straightforward message, but it's one that inspires me every time.

"'Though you've got no reason to go there,
And there ain't a soul that you know there.
When the 3:10 to Yuma whistles its sad refrain.
Take that train (take that train)
Take that train."

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