‘3:10 to Yuma,’ directed by James Mangold, is a 2007 Western drama film starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in central roles. After Ben Wade, a notorious outlaw, gets caught in the small town of Bisbee, Arizona, a group of men find themselves charged to escort him to Contention, where a 3:10 train to Yuma awaits him. With the promise of a reward, struggling rancher and family man Dan Evans gets roped into the posse and faces several threats along the way. However, as an unlikely bond of mutual respect forms between Dan and Ben, the two men look down the barrel of an uncertain future. If you’re curious to see where this adventure leads Dan and what is in store for Ben at Contention, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘3:10 to Yuma.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!
3:10 to Yuma Plot Synopsis
Following a brutal drought, Dan Evans’s farm goes into decline, forcing him to rack up substantial debt from a town creditor, Glen Hollander. As such, when the time comes, Hollander sends out his men to burn down Dan’s barn and set his cattle loose to send a warning. The following morning Dan and his sons, little Mark and teenage William, go out to round up the cattle and witness the infamous Ben Wade and his gang rob an incoming coach that contains Bisbee railroad workers’ payroll.
Although Ben notices Dan and his sons, he decides they aren’t a threat and leaves without harming them. Afterward, Ben and his gang covertly arrive at Bisbee, where his second-hand man, Charlie Prince, distracts the Marshal out of town, buying them some time to rest. Soon, the gang leaves, but Ben decides to stay for a while after a barmaid catches his attention. As a result, when the Marshal returns to the city, he manages to catch Ben. Shortly after, Butterfield, a railroad representative, gathers a group to transport Ben to a train headed towards the Yuma Prison.
Dan volunteers his help, with the condition of $200 in payment, and gets hired for the job. He’s joined by Byron McElroy, the man under whose leadership the coach was robbed, Doc Potter, the local veterinarian required to oversee Byron’s health, and Tucker, Hollander’s employee. After sending out a decoy wagon to distract Ben’s gang, the posse takes cover in Dan’s ranch. After nightfall, Dan and the others leave for Contention. Their journey is arduous, and Ben successfully kills Tucker and Byron but fails to escape after William, who secretly follows his father from the ranch, stops him.
The group journeys through a hostile Alpache pass and a Chinese labor railroad camp, where Doc gets shot and dies. Nevertheless, Dan, William, and Butterfield make it to Contention alive, with Ben as their prisoner. However, by then, Charlie catches up to their ruse and tracks them down to Contention with Ben’s gang. Charlie learns Ben is locked in a hotel room with town lawmen recruited by Butterfield for added security. As a result, he announces a $200 prize to anyone who kills Ben’s captors.
After countless individuals from the town ready their guns towards the hotel room window, Contention Marshal Boles and his men abandon the job but get killed as soon as they step out of the hotel anyways. Butterfield, too gives up, advising Dan to do the same. However, Dan, intent on seeing things through, refuses, asking Butterfield to return William to his home. Putting forth the condition of an erased debt for his family and the ranch and an additional $1000, Dan decides to go against Ben’s gang to put Ben on the 3:10 train.
3:10 to Yuma Ending: Why Does Ben Help Dan?
Ben’s gang contains numerous proficient gunslingers, and with Charlie’s plan, most of the town is out to get Dan as well. To make matters worse, the train station is half a mile away. Although Dan manages to make his out of the hotel with moderate success, he gets shot and takes cover in another building. By then, Ben loses his patience and tries to choke Dan, unwilling to play along anymore.
Even when Ben is a prisoner, he effortlessly kills two men on his whims. As such, it’s clear he’s more than capable of overpowering Dan. Likewise, Ben has always known he could count on Charlie’s unflinching loyalty and that his gang would come looking for him. With only Dan as his captor now, Ben is as good as a free man. Nevertheless, he decides to willingly help Dan by running through the town and getting on the train to Yuma Prison.
Throughout the film, we see Dan and Ben begrudgingly bonding. Even though both men are stark opposites, with clashing philosophies about morals and ethics, they both share their strong sense of self. Ben respects Dan for being a man of virtue and integrity. Unlike Ben’s other captors, Dan has an unshakable drive. When faced with unbeatable odds, Dan decides to face them head-on instead of resigning like, Butterfield and the other lawmen.
Similarly, Dan also sticks by his principles and proves it by turning down Ben’s offer of $1000 to let him go earlier. As such, although Dan and Ben may be far from friends, Ben respects Dan’s honor and sincere righteousness. Still, the final nail in the coffin comes when Ben tries to choke Dan to death, and all Dan does is reveal the truth behind how he lost his leg.
Since he’s a Civil War veteran, everyone assumes Dan must have lost his leg in a battle. However, in reality, on Dan’s first day on the battlefield, one of his comrades accidentally shoots Dan in the leg, which leads to his loss of limb. Dan tells Ben a man only wins his son’s disappointment with a war story such as the one he has. Due to the same, he must finish this job to earn his son’s adoration by doing something good and heroic.
The confession makes Ben see the vulnerable side of Dan as a father only looking for his son’s acceptance. It also reinforces his position as a virtuous man who doesn’t lie to his son and chooses to reveal the hard truth. Due to all these reasons, Ben decides to help Dan by actively running away from his gang toward the station with Dan by his side.
Does Dan Die?
Even though Ben decides to help Dan, two men against an entire town is hardly a fair fight. Moreover, in their confusion, the townspeople shoot at Ben, not knowing he’s the one Charlie wants to save. As a result, Charlie starts shooting at the townspeople, which sends the whole scene down a chaotic spiral. Still, the duo manages to make it to the station, with Dan sustaining a minor bullet injury.
However, the 3:10 train ends up running late. Consequently, Dan and Ben have to hide out at the train station until the train arrives, giving Charlie enough time to catch up to them. When the train arrives, Charlie prevents them from boarding it by shooting at them from a distance. William shows up in the knick of time, having run away from Butterfield to help his father. He rounds up some nearby cattle, which robs Charlie of his vantage point.
Using the distraction to their advantage, Ben boards the train fulfilling Dan’s mission. From the beginning, Dan only ever wants to do what’s best for his family. Dan needs the ranch and does everything in his power to hold on to it. Now that Dan has fulfilled his end of the bargain, Butterfield will ensure the Hollanders no longer bother his family and that the railroad construction won’t rob Dan of his land and water.
Nevertheless, in the face of victory, Dan gets shot in the back by Charlie Prince, Ben’s right-hand man. Ben, who watches the life drain out of Dan’s eyes, is devastated at the loss. Although Ben is usually composed and calm, there’s a rage simmering underneath that unlocks after Dan’s death.
Surrounded by brutal and violent men most of his life, Ben has never known a man like Dan. Unlike the falsely pious Byron, the greedy Butterfield, or the brutish Charlie who shoots someone in the back, Dan lived by his morals and has died by them too. Therefore, Ben exacts revenge for Dan’s death and kills Charlie.
Does Ben Go To The Yuma Prison?
After Dan dies, Ben doesn’t really owe it to anyone to get on the train and surrender himself to the Yuma Prison. Nevertheless, he respects Dan so much that he wants to honor his memory and finish what he had started. Therefore despite his self-preservation, Ben gets on the 3:10 train to Yuma, traveling to the Yuma Prison.
Moreover, Dan’s deal with Butterfield hinges upon Ben’s deposit on the train. As such, Ben also wants to ensure Dan’s wife, Alice, and their kids receive the benefits Dan wants them to have. Since Dan tells Ben about Mark’s tuberculosis earlier, Ben knows Mark can’t survive without the ranch’s dry climate. Therefore, a known immoral man decides to play by Dan’s morals and gives himself up.
However, the knowledge that he won’t be imprisoned for long certainly also plays a part in Ben’s surrender. Ben has been to the Yuma Prison twice before and has escaped both times. In the end, after the train leaves Contention, Dan whistles for his horse from the compartment, and the horse goes chasing the train. The same implies Dan likely escaped from Yuma Prison shortly after but ensured Dan’s death wasn’t in vain either.
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