Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Mild Mild West
James Mangold moves inexorably closer towards his destiny as a future Oscar-winning director with 3:10 to Yuma -- which is my way of saying that the movie is okay. Competent. The kind of film that makes you go, "Mmmm, strong production values." I don't mean that entirely derisively. As I opined to Dan Fienberg in an interesting discussion following 3:10 to Yuma's initial release (scroll down to the comments section): "What (Mangold) is becoming is an increasingly accomplished craftsman who can work efficiently in almost any genre: police procedural (Copland), chick flick (Girl, Interrupted), thriller (Identity), biopic (Walk the Line), Western (this film). His movies are well-made and well-acted, and for me these days I guess that's enough."
It's definitely not horse-feathers. Having seen 3:10 again on DVD, I once again appreciated the obvious thought and care that Mangold puts into his films. His ability to stage a decent action scene is apparent from the beginning, and sometimes he even surprises with an arresting image (like, say, a horse exploding). Lately the best thing in a Mangold movie is the editing by the unsung Michael McCusker, whose exhilarating sense of rhythm is entering Anne V. Coates territory. (McCusker put together the opening credits sequence to Walk the Line, arguably the best thing Mangold has ever done.), And for those legions of moviegoers who go "Mmmm" at the sight of Russell Crowe, suffice to say that he's only coasting in this one, and rediscovers the charm he once had before straining for gold statues and pummeling bellboys with telephones.
I admire Mangold's refusal (so far) to bloat up his films a la Ron Howard, his willingness to make different kinds of movies. That they all end up more or less the same -- mildly entertaining, a little bland -- I'm often willing to overlook. Still, when I said what I'd said to Fienberg, the 2007 movie year hadn't reached its crescendo: it was before Paul Thomas Anderson, before the Coen brothers. Before being reminded of the possibilities of what movies can be. 3:10 to Yuma is still okay, but I'm no longer sure it's enough.