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3:10 to Iraq

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At a party once, I made a comment to Russell Crowe about his hair and he almost beat me up. So I haven't always been his biggest fan. But I have to admit, there are a lot of reasons to see 3:10 to Yuma this weekend. As the reviews will tell you, it's an exceptional film, with gorgeous photography, stunning action and hypnotic, sublime performances. But what I am surprised I have not read, are the all-too-real parallels to Iraq.

The premise of the film lies in Christian Bale's character, a desperate, wounded vet, volunteering to take on the insanely dangerous mission of transporting the lethal outlaw played by Russell Crowe across the frontier to meet up with the prison train. Crowe has a vicious gang that live in the shadows, and terrorize various towns almost with impunity. And they will stop at nothing to spring their boss.

Bale takes on the mission because he is broke, and about to lose the family farm to ruthless bankers. The bitter irony of watching him pursue his assignment comes from the fact that Crowe and his gang are really the enemy of the establishment, the banks whose stagecoaches they regularly rob. Although the film is too smart to shine a spotlight on this, the fact is, the two lead characters have a common enemy.

As the Army offers incentive bonuses to ship increasingly reluctant recruits off to the "Surge" in Iraq, we must stop and consider, for whom are we really asking these young men and women to die? Are you willing to ask that of a 22 year old from Bakersfield with a baby on the way? Someone who signed up as a reservist because he needed the money? Or the medical student who signed up for a scholarship after 9/11, never expecting to be dropped into the middle of a civil war in a country that didn't attack us? Or one of the many others who are on their second or third or fourth tour of duty?

Yeah, this weekend is a good time to see Yuma, because as you remark upon the quaint prices for which a man could be bought in the olden days -- Bale is risking his life for about $1000 -- keep in mind today's posting on the Army's website:

"The Army is offering Assignment Incentive Pay (AIP) for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Soldiers, ranging between $50 and $750 per month."