Let's just get it out there - I heart Christian Bale. Seriously. He's the peanut butter to my bread, the knees of my bees, the weeble to my wobble. He's lovely.
He also has the advantage of being a really interesting actor, who picks a lot of strange and unconventional roles, so when I follow his career I get to see everything from Reign of Fire - a low budget movie about dragons, to American Psycho - the adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel about a (maybe)serial killer to Batman Begins, the restart of the expensive superhero franchise, to 3:10 To Yuma, a remake of the 1957 film of the same name, and a good old-fashioned western of the best kind.
In 3:10, Bale plays a struggling rancher injured in the Civil War. When he goes to town to beg a fellow rancher for more time to pay his debts, Bale takes a paid job escorting gunman and villain Russell Crowe to the train - the 3:10 to Yuma - so that he can be shipped off to jail and hung.
The rest of the movie is basically a chase film. Bale and his fellows have to escape Apaches and railroad men and Crowe's own crew, who is coming to rescue their leader. During the course of this chase, Crowe and Bale form an interesting bond, not of friendship, exactly, but one of understanding.
Because he picks such interesting roles, Christian Bale is, a lot of the times, the best actor in a movie. He's been in a bunch of cheesy movies with stars who are slumming, or people we've never heard of, or whose budgets barely exist. So it's really a joy to see him play against someone as great as Russell Crowe. Both of them are at the top of their game here - their back and forth takes the movie from an interesting old school Western to a great movie. The supporting performances are equally good - particularly Ben Foster as the showy Charlie Prince, Crowe's second-in-command. Because of flashier movies like The Coward Robert Ford and No Country for Old Men, 3:10 has been largely overlooked this award season, and that's too bad, since it's truly great. Even though Christian Bale doesn't take his shirt off in it.