3:10 to yuma: an expression of midlife crisis in western films essay sample

3: 10 to Yuma, made in 2007, is a rather unique telling of a Western film. The film centers around Dan, a rancher in Arizona, who has faced a series of challenges in the past few years that have placed him on the edge of losing his ranch. On the edge of losing everything, he stakes it all, including his life, on escorting outlaw Ben Wade to the nearby town of Contention to put him on the 3: 10 train to Yuma prison. But while his primary objective is money to save his dying ranch, his primary objective is to regain the respect of his family, and particularly that of his fourteen year old son William.
Dan faces challenges, both internally within his family and externally. His family does not view him as a proper caregiver. From the very first scene, we see that Hollander, the man to whom they owe money on the ranch, has no respect for Dan’s property. He sends his henchmen in the middle of the night to burn Dan’s barn, apparently to get him to pay. When, in the aftermath, Dan tells William he will “’take care of this,” William replies matter-of-factly, “ No you won’t.” In a later scene with Hollander in the town of Bisby, though, it is made clear that money is not what Hollander is after; he is simply trying to get Dan and his family off the land. It is clear that Dan’s money problems are directly due to Hollander damming up the stream that flows through Dan’s property higher up, where the land belongs to him, causing a drought; and Hollander tells Dan directly, “ Sometimes a man has to be big enough to realize how small he is Your land’s worth more with you off it.” In addition, Dan is missing part of his leg, shot off during the American Civil War, leaving him with a physical reminder of his inability to provide and prosper.
His wife, Alice, is a remarkably pretty woman, and also expresses displeasure with how Dan has handled things. In an early scene, she discovers that he had used money meant to pay their mortgage to Hollander instead to purchase tuberculosis medicine for their younger son, Mark. She tells Dan that they are supposed to make decisions together. “’Would you have done any different?” is his response. While she likely would not have, he still struggles to maintain his role as head of the family, and purposely does not consult her in such important matters. She feels left out of decisions, and rightly so. Dan even attempts to use a gold broach of hers without her knowledge to pay off Hollander. He is so confused and helpless that he is unable to make choices together, as a married couple, anymore. This leaves her actually open to the advances made upon her by Ben Wade, the outlaw, when given the chance. While she does not accept them, she seems oddly open to them. In the next scene, she and Dan are talking in private for the last time; she tells Dan, of accompanying Wade to Contention and putting him on the train, “ You can change your mind, Dan. No one will think less of you.” To which Dan replies, “ Nobody can think less of me.” This clearly underscores his need to do something heroic to restore his male identity, which he feels has been eroding away under familial and external pressures.
In the final scenes, there are several telling moments. Wade offers Dan a thousand dollars to let him go; Dan indicates that people would still know, that he would not be able to explain where the money came from. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Butterfield, the railroad man, offers him $200 (the amount he was initially supposed to get) just to go home. Dan turns it down, referencing his lost leg, for which he was also compensated $200. He says, “ They weren’t paying me so I could walk away. They were paying me so they could walk away.” In the end, to him, as he says to William, “ You just remember that your old man walked Ben Wade to that station. When nobody else would.” Later, when Wade is mostly cooperative but wants to give up, Dan tells him that his injury was sustained by friendly fire in retreat. “ You try telling that story to your boy, see how he looks at you then.” Wade subsequently cooperates, and Dan ultimately dies after getting Wade on the train.
In the final scene, William is saying goodbye to his dying father. He tells him, “ You done it, Pa. You done it. You got him on the train.” Despite the folly of losing his life for such a relatively pointless act (Wade had made it clear he had already escaped from Yuma twice, and so most probably could do it again), Dan accomplished what he wanted, and achieved the lasting respect of his family and his son. He also ensured their continued well-being by making Butterfield promise them flowing water, freedom from Hollander, and $1, 000 for Alice. While he certainly felt like the world was against him before taking on this particular task, in its conclusion, he felt that he had finally done something useful for his family and also regained his masculinity. In an age before Porsches, what else signifies a mid-life crisis so well?