In August 1864, Dan Evans (Christian Bale), an impoverished rancher and Civil War veteran, although sitting awake and armed to prevent it, has his barn set ablaze by two men working for Glen Hollander (Lennie Loftin), to whom Evans owes money. The next morning, as Evans and his two sons drive their herd, they stumble upon outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang using Evans’ cattle as a road blockade to ambush an armored stagecoach.
As he loots the stage, Wade discovers Evans and his two sons (Logan Lerman and Benjamin Petry) watching from the hills. Acknowledging that they pose no threat to him and his gang, Wade takes their horses telling Evans that he will leave them tied up on the road to Bisbee. Wade travels with his gang to the town of Bisbee, Arizona to enjoy a celebratory drink at the local saloon.
Evans eventually arrives with lawmen from Bisbee and tries in vain to negotiate with Hollander. Enraged at the loss of his livelihood and land, Evans tries confronting Hollander in the nearby saloon. Instead he encounters Wade once again, whom he distracts long enough for the railroad guards to ambush and arrest him.
Evans, a one-legged, down-on-his-luck rancher struggling to keep a home together for his wife and two kids. Russell Crowe plays Ben Wade, an intelligent and heartless outlaw who’s leading one of the blood-thirstiest gangs to ever take up the owlhoot trail.
Both stars take turns stealing scenes. Bale has the hard-edged look of coarse rawhide. Crowe possesses some of the deadest eyes ever shown in movies.
One of the best portrayals in the movie was a surprise to me, though. It took me a minute to recognize Peter Fonda as professional bounty hunter turned Pinkerton agent Byron McElroy. Fonda reminded me a lot of his father Henry, but part of that is because Fonda has aged. He also delivers a quality of acting and honesty in the character that is just amazing, and he was content to carry the supporting character role and didn’t try to upstage anyone.
Director: James Mangold
Year of Release: 2007
Character to watch: Christian Bale as Dan Evans.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?