Welcome! Log in or Register

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (DVD)

  • image
£4.97 Best Offer by: amazon.co.uk marketplace See more offers
7 Reviews

Genre: War & Western - Western / Theatrical Release: 2006 / Actors: Rodger Boyce, Sonny Carl Davis ... / DVD released 06 June, 2006 at Sony Pictures / Features of the DVD: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC

  • Write a review >
    How do you rate the product overall? Rate it out of five by clicking on one of the hearts.
    What are the advantages and disadvantages? Use up to 10 bullet points.
    Write your reviews in your own words. 250 to 500 words
    Number of words:
    Write a concise and readable conclusion. The conclusion is also the title of the review.
    Number of words:
    Write your email adress here Write your email adress

    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    7 Reviews
    Sort by:
    • More +
      31.01.2010 19:44
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
      1 Comment

      Advantages

      Disadvantages

      Interesting modern cowboy tale

      Definitely one of the strangest cowboy films I've seen. Tommy Lee Jones played the part of a cowboy who goes slightly mental after his friend gets shot accidentally by a new border patrol agent. Out of a sense of loyalty to the dead cowboy Tommy Lee Jones tries to fulfill a promise he had made earlier to bury the man in his home town across the border in Mexico.

      The film can get a bit slow at times but the film combats that with some really odd twists and turns that make you wonder what Tommy Lee was drinking when he came up with the idea.

      The acting is at a usual high from such top rate actors, its only the content that makes me question whether this film is any good or not. Part of me likes it for being unique and part of me feels this film is just too weird and random to be taken seriously.

      You need to pay attention throughout the film as it isn't clear at the start what is going on and the story is only explained later via flashback clips. Its a decent film that you wouldn't mind spending an evening watching, but it definitely isn't for everyone.

      Comments

      Login or register to add comments
      • More +
        05.08.2009 17:43
        Very helpful
        (Rating)

        Advantages

        Disadvantages

        One of the greatest debuts of the decade

        This review was originally written by myself, here:
        www.fritzlfan.wordpress.com

        With The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones showed that his capabilities and experience as an actor could be put to good use behind the camera. The plot begins with a border patrolman mistakenly killing a Mexican cowboy, Melquiades Estrada, then burying the body in the desert. When the body is uncovered, it is given a proper burial in the local cemetery, whilst Pete Perkins, the friend of the patrolman, Mike Norton, attempts to discover the truth behind the killing. After Pete (Tommy Lee Jones) discovers that it was in fact Mike who shot Melquiades, he forces him to retrieve the body so that they can give Melquiades a proper burial with his relatives in Mexico. When the two eventually get to Mexico to give Melquiades' family his body, we discover just how poor the conditions are in Mexican towns near the border.

        The film has a theme of a trio of relationships. Pete has his friendship with Melquiades whilst also spending time with Mike as they both venture into Mexico. Before the events of Melquiades' death, Pete was involved in a love triangle with a diner owner and his wife. The wife of Mike, Lou Ann begins to develop a friendship with Pete's love, Rachael. These friendships occur when isolation begins to seep in to the townspeople's souls.

        Though the script by Guillermo Arriaga and the cinematography by Chris Menges are top notch and reminiscent of Peckinpah, the acting of Barry Pepper (Mike) and Tommy Lee Jones especially (who was awarded the Best Actor award at Cannes) are elements necessary to bring the film up to the quality which is required for it to truly considered a masterpiece. I'm sure that in years to come it will be considered just that.

        Comments

        Login or register to add comments
      • More +
        28.10.2007 12:32
        Very helpful
        (Rating)
        3 Comments

        Advantages

        Disadvantages

        A new take on the Western and a good one at that

        Ranch hand Pete Perkins is not a happy man. His best friend and fellow ranch hand, the Melquiades Estrada of the title, has been shot dead by a trigger happy border patrol officer, Mike Norton. Now he wants revenge, but Norton's boss would rather brush the whole thing under the carpet. Perkins therefore decides to take things into his own hands and force Perkins to make amends by taking Estrada's body back to his Mexican hometown to bury him. Will Perkins be able to bypass the law in order to get what he wants? And will Norton come to realise the wrong that he has committed?

        I don't think I would ever have watched this film if I hadn't read a couple of reviews recommending it - I just don't like anything that smacks of Westerns and that is exactly what this film is - a modern day Western. However, it is more than 'just' a Western - it is a story that deals with societal disparities, the trust between human beings and revenge. On top of that, it is also beautifully filmed. All in all, although it is not without its flaws, I am more than glad I had the opportunity to watch this film.

        Tommy Lee Jones both directs the film and plays the key role of Pete Perkins. I really like Tommy Lee Jones, but don't actually know why. Time and time again I have watched a film because he is in it, yet his performances, although competent, are rarely awe-inspiring. I don't know why this should be, because I feel as if he has the potential to do a lot more. As Perkins, he is a surly man whose soft centre is only shown by his regard for Estrada and his bit on the side, Rachel. His performance is perfectly realistic and competent, but nor did it blow me out of the water.

        Barry Pepper as Mike Norton gives a very solid performance as a selfish man used to getting what he wants when he wants from his woman and not above using his fists and gun against Mexican women when he gets the chance. He comes across as being a bit of a coward who cannot take what he gives out and this is exactly what we are supposed to think. His performance is very controlled though - it would have been easy to exaggerate his unpleasant side, but he does keep this reigned in, much to the benefit of the film.

        I would have liked to see more of Julio Cedillo who plays Estrada and who is unfortunately dead for much of the film. The times that he is on screen, he has a great presence and I felt as if he could have offered much more given the chance. His relationship with Pete Perkins is strong - I did think they might have a sexual relationship at one point, but apparently not. January Jones and Melissa Leo are both worth mentioning as Norton's wife, Lou Ann, and Rachel. Jones role is little more than eye candy, but she provides it with aplomb and I got the impression she had a lot more to give. I would have liked Rachel's role to be better developed because Leo gives a great performance as the female version of a local lothario - as it is, we are just shown snippets of her life and I was left wanting to know more.

        Perhaps Tommy Lee Jones' talent lies with directing. I certainly thought he did a really good job of the visuals - the scenery was really stunning, particularly when Perkins is leading Norton across Mexico. The pacing was a little off at the beginning of the film - I really felt that it was too slow and the constant jumping in time made it very difficult to follow and for the first half an hour, I hadn't really got a clue what was going on. Once the story was set though, it all made sense and following the film was downhill from then on.

        The film is about a white officer shooting a Mexican man and then trying to cover up his crime. All sorts of parallels could be drawn to do with the wrongs that ethnic minorities are forced to accept in this world - the most obvious being the war in Iraq. This is dealt with to a certain extent - we see the Mexican woman who Norton abused get her revenge on him towards the end of the film and it is hard not to cheer - but nor was it dwelt on too much. Ultimately, this is a film about people and their feelings and the colour of their skin almost becomes irrelevant and that is personally how I prefer my films.

        It wasn't the most exciting film I have ever seen; by Western (as in cowboy) standards, it was positively dull. I liked it though. It had a powerful message - that what goes around comes around - accompanied by some good acting and excellent cinematography. I can't ask for much more. Recommended.

        The DVD is available from play.com for £5.99.

        Classification: 15

        Running time: 120 minutes

        Comments

        Login or register to add comments
        • More +
          23.10.2007 12:45
          Very helpful
          (Rating)
          4 Comments

          Advantages

          Disadvantages

          One man - three burials. A roadtrip western about friendship, loyalty and redemption

          My husband put this on our DVD rental list and at first I was a bit dubious about it. I had only heard fleeting things about the film and for the life of me I couldn't remember whether it was good or bad so I didn't know wha to expect really. I have to admit that I was more than pleasantly surprised.

          The 2005 The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is in fact Jones' second directorial offering (the first being a tv movie called The Good Old Boys) who together with the film's writer Giuermo Arriaga who has also given us the likes of 21 Grams have provided a wonderful modern western in a US border town and Mexico. The story is literally based around the title - Melquiades is a Mexican cowboy who entered the US illegally in search of work and we follow the events that lead up to death and the circumstances around why he has three burials.

          It is actually quite hard to summarise this film (I am reviewing the film and not the DVD) without giving the plot away entirely so I will try and keep it is as general as possible.

          The film starts with the discovery of a dead body and through flashbacks we discover who the victim was, why he was killed and the relationships surrounding the victim and the town as a whole. In a mixture of Spanish (which is subtitled) and English we see a developing bond and friendship between Melquiades and Pete (Tommy Lee Jones). In real time we see how Pete is trying to uncover the identity of the victim's killer and once discovered seeks to exact revenge (it would appear) and carry out the wishes of his friend to be buried in his beloved village of Jimenez. At first I found the use of flashbacks a little disorientating as newly introduced characters were appearing in various situations and yet you weren't quite sure which timeline you were on to start with. I was quite pleased that we were watching this on DVD as quick trips to the kitchen for a bottle of corona (we like to get into the spirit of things) often meant that you missed a flashback so we could rewind so as not to miss something. Not that overall the film was hard to follow but on first appearances it felt like it could have been an overly complicated film to watch.

          What is so good about this film is it is really complex on so many levels and yet completely understated and totally compelling. You are not entirely sure how the story will evolve to start with - is it an exploration of US/Mexican border policy or a murder mystery or a "look at this small town with all its big secrets" film. In a way it is all of these but they are very much on the periphery. Then you start to wonder if the film is about friendship and revenge but by the final third you realise that it is just about friendship, loyalty and redemption. What is also nice is that you get to see the themes of the movie not just from the perspective of the main characters but also from the other towns folk as well - the wife of the diner owner who has "time" for a few people and yet won't leave her husband, the border patrol guard's wife who leaves as soon as he "accompanies" Pete on the road trip being other prime examples.

          Essentially the film is a mix of road trip movie and modern Western exploring the main themes but it is very clever in how it uses film making techniques to get the point across as well. You have the flashbacks to tell the initial story and slightly disorientate you. It gives the film a kind of interwoven and tight knit feel as you would expect from a small remote town. You have the way that the film is divided into sections with titles to give you some idea of where you are in the story both in terms of timeline and development. And then you have the use of incredible cinematography to show the wonderful landscapes of the Texan/Mexican border which opens out into this one journey to take Melquiades home on the one timeline until the end of the movie.

          One of the things that really did surprise me was that as I was sat there watching the film I had no idea who had directed it. The film did have a raw feel to it but it was set in quite a harsh environment and any director worth their salt would exploit that. But once my husband told me it all seemed to make sense. Here you have Tommy Lee Jones, a man who is undeniably Texan, directing a film about Texas and Mexico and who is noted for his raw and yet laid back acting performances. This really shone through in the film. He captured the life of a small border town very realistically and together with the writing you felt that you had a town of fully developed characters - some stereotypical, others not - that was very believable.

          One of the joys of this film is Chris Menges' (who was also in charge of the cinematography of The Killing Fields 1984 and The Mission 1986) cinematography. The landscape is used so beautifully to underline this film - you have wonderful panoramic shots showing the mix of hospitable and inhospitable areas, the rough harsh terrain of the border, the hot unforgiving sands of the deserts, the cooling nature of the water and rocks. Despite the ruggedness and the perils of the region its sense of beauty is also captured. Admittedly it would be hard to avoid shots like this on location but Menges seems to take it that one step further to really help emphasise the scenes. In conjunction with the cinematography there is also the score from Marco Beltrami, who uses a fusion of full orchestration and Spanish guitar to provide a wonderful backdrop to the film. It isn't a memorable original score (there are no themes to have you humming for days on end) but it nicely balanced and stays well in the background and like the film it moves from the border town to mexican countryside by being quite heavily stocked with country songs in the first half and mexican style music. The combination of the directing, cinematography and music give this film a raw edge and yet there is something quite haunting and captivating about it.

          Of course clever directing, writing, cinematography and music are the backbone of a film but what really brings this film to life is the acting. Not only does Tommy Lee Jones bring all the elements of this film together but he contributes greatly by bringing the character of Pete to life. The characters are incredibly well written anyway but you feel that Jones really is adding to him. Pete has a rugged, quiet persona who is slightly obsessive, loyal and very determined. You start to feel that he is one of those characters who is on the outside the but is looking on through an open window - they are at the house but they want to be inside. Someone who has no real friends but when he gets one is fiercely defensive of them. The only other actor that I recognised in the film is Barry Pepper (I have seen him in a few things but most noticeable The Green Mile) although I would still call him well known. His character probably undergoes the biggest journey (literally) of all the characters in the film. He goes from being the over zealous border patrol officer, Mike Norton, to being the repentant man through his journey and although you never thought you would feel anything for him, by the end you could appreciate how far he had come. As engaging as Jones is, Pepper provides a wonderful understated performance which should not be overlooked. The other performances are also engaging despite being quite small in part.

          I think what makes this film so appealing is that if you strip away the tools of the film making trade you still have a wonderfully simple story. But add everything back in and you have a simple story told in an interesting and quite raw way but which has a real underlying beauty and message. As a modern western this is one of the better and probably underestimated examples. Although set in modern times it still tips the hat to the old westerns with cattle scenes, the diner like the saloon with the very "friendly" hostess/waitress, lasso using, rattlers and there is even a bit of "saloon" piano playing! The film is full of endearing performances and scenarios with a nice amount of black comedy which some might find a little too much but it just shows how far a true friend will go to carry out their friend's wishes. Although the story is straightforward you are always kept on your toes because not quite everything is as it seems.

          For me this is one of the best films I have seen all year. I'm not a western fan at all but because the film seems more than that it makes it incredibly watchable and you can't help but sit there after it has finished and say "that was really good". It's also just over the two hour mark so is a nice length and packed with story - there really isn't much fat on this film which makes a nice change. It's rated 15 and some of the scenes could prove to be a little offensive to some bearing in mind that although there are two living people on the road trip the guy to be buried is there also and makes the occasional appearance! But that said I would heartily recommend this film to fans and non fans of westerns alike.

          A version of this review is also on Ciao

          Comments

          Login or register to add comments
          • More +
            08.08.2007 10:28
            Very helpful
            (Rating)
            4 Comments

            Advantages

            Disadvantages

            A greek odyssey

            Every movie needs a twist. If the film is so-so, ambles on, and then delivers a neat and unexpected twist to round it off then it can be saved, even sneak into the good category, as is the case here.
            This classy and observant drama delivered that gentle subtle twist when required, topping off an interesting and different kind of film from your normal Hollywood fare, a distinct whiff of Greek tragedy here. Although not a lot happens for while it does mange to keep you intrigued until it does, such is the quality of performance and scene setting. The second half is an odyssey of such and that’s where the film becomes engaging.

            The film is heavily garnered with awards, mainly because of the excellent acting, especially from Tommy Lee Jones and the engaging Barry Pepper, Jones winning the best actor at Cannes for this-the movie, best screenplay also stamped on the dust cover. Barry Pepper is just one of those actors that just exudes menace and pathos, forever playing those roles, as is his turn here.

            -The plot-

            Buzz-cut, border patrol newcomer Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) and his pretty wife Lou Anne (January Jones) are new in a town, his job to round up ‘illegals’ coming over the US/Mexican border. But Mike is a bit of a rough hand bigot and gets off by using his rifle butt on the “wetbacks” that are unlucky enough to be captured by him in the desert.
            Norton is about to have a new adversary in Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones), a traditional American cowboy working the Texas pampas with his equally traditional methods. As long as Pete has his bit on the side (Melissa Leo) and some rich coffee and a healthy horse under him he’s a happy man. But what makes him angry is losing those he trusts after cutting them a break, and when Norton seemingly accidentally kills a Mexican border hopper who had been working the land with Perkins the vendetta is struck.

            Melquidas Estrada (Julio Cesar Cedillo) was Perkins friend and the cowboy wants revenge and retribution for his fellow horseman, local Border Patrol Captain, Chief Belmont (Dwight Yokam,) less than enthusiastic on doing anything about his wayward young buck. People die out there and that’s the end of it. So if Mike’s boss won’t act, Perkins will, quickly taking events into his own hands. For every action there’s a reaction and Perkins is going to make those responsible, accountable.

            Melquidas asked only one thing of his boss Perkins and that was for his body to be taken back to his Mexican hometown if anything should happen to him in America. Well something has and with his tiny map and knowledge of the land Perkins sets out to return the body to a place called Jimenez. With most of the border patrol following and the body decaying by the minute it will be not best pleasant.

            -The result-

            The temptation is easy for the viewer to see this as some sort of metaphor for the Iraq conflict, a young trigger happy buck getting to take a life he doesn’t feel he will ever have to be accountable for, and then having to face the unexpected and humiliating retribution. There’s no doubt there are echoes of Iraq in this movie wrapped around that Greek legend, the two central characters having to come to terms with their lives and actions in the present and immediate future.

            Star and director Tommy Lee Jones performance as the moral conscious of the movie is all very fine, although not deserving of any of those serious acting accolades it garnered as it’s a straightforward parody of Clint Eastwood, but without the enigma of the great Cowboy. Pepper, on the other hand, is excellent as the young greenhorn determined to let out his frustrations of his loveless marriage and racist tendencies on the illegal Mexican immigrants. I’m pretty sure this won best screenplay at Cannes because it’s expressing America’s obvious xenophobia towards anyone with alien skin color outside of their comfort zone-but I may be wrong.

            Visually it’s very authentic, capturing the baroness of the great desert lands in the Pan Handle, exaggerating the gap between rich and poor. Its cinematography is immaculate and the ingredients of Homers Odyssey of a blind man, poison asps and witchcraft themes in the ancient rules of vengeance add to the mix that gives this a distinct intoxicating presence.
            I think the biggest positive about this movie is that it’s different and it has also unearthed Tommy Lee Jones obvious directing talent, Clint Eastwood style. If you want a western from the good old days and can last two hours then this and the excellent Open Range are where you need to be.

            Comments

            Login or register to add comments
            • More +
              15.06.2007 16:40
              Very helpful
              (Rating)
              3 Comments

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              Tommy Lee Jones' unique and low-key Western combines great direction with similarly great acting

              Even though the high point of the Texan frontier, cowboys, Mexicans, corrupt sheriffs and deputies, and revenge was over a hundred years ago, ostensibily it still very much exists today. That same barren desert dividing Mexico and Texas is still there, as undeveloped as it was back in the time of the bounty hunters. Tommy Lee Jones raises this very issue in his second outing as a director, the Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, creating a film that very much follows a similar pattern to the classic Western, but is also very much its own unique film, cross-genre and an impressive piece of indie film-making that is a rarity these days.

              Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo) is one of many Mexicans who has illegally crossed the border into America, where he drifts, a freelance cowboy. Striking up a close friendship with old veteran Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones), Estrada is soon accidentally murdered by an obnoxious Texas Border Ranger, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper). In his grief, Perkins takes the role of a vigilante, his cry for justice ignored by crooked Sheriff Belmont (Dwight Yoakam), and sets out on a gruelling journey with the aim of not only burying his friend on Mexican soil, but making Norton pay for what he did. The story is complicated, especially in its non-linear, fragmented first act, wherein a handful of subplots are established, namely Norton's strained relationship with his bored wife, Lou Ann (January Jones), and Perkins' intimacy with the local whore/agony aunt, Rachel (Melissa Leo). This is unexpected given the nature of the film, and proves for some confusing and slightly frustrating viewing as we get to grips with how everything is related. The main problem with the film initially is that it's quite slow and the characters do not become likeable for quite a while as Jones develops them, raising a question as to not only where the film is going, but whether or not the rest of the story will take on a similar structure. But once Jones has the story and characters firmly set in the ground, it soon picks up a pace and considerable power, a richly crafted and quietly moving film.

              The most prominent issue that Jones is highlighting in Three Burials is that of the strife between Mexico and Texas state at the border. The no-man's land of a desert that separates them is a small area of lawlessness and the bizarre. It's as if this forgotten part of the world is stuck in time, the free rangers still roam around on horses, people always have a gun handy, and cabins and shacks are rampant accodes for cowboys. But modernisation has crept in, albeit subtly. The cars and jeeps are there and the like, as well as some developed neighbourhoods that almost resemble caravan parks. Ultimately, however, the point that Jones is making is that society has changed very little out on the old frontier, and people's mentalities largely stay very much the same over the decades. Texas is intriguingly compared to Mexico, the latter being more primitive perhaps, but the quality of life being far better to the point where after we've witnessed the grit and corruption of Texas, Mexico almost becomes like a safe haven. The comparison is subtle, barely noticeable in some respects, as Jones does not make Texas black and Mexico white. Three Burials rather progresses gradually between the two locations, the desert acting as a medium for this. Indeed, in order to illustrate how the line between Texas and Mexico has blurred, Spanish is spoken as much as English, one of many satisfying details Jones puts across.

              Moreover, Tommy Lee Jones proves himself to be as skilled a director as he is an actor, with almost pedantic attention to detail, the film acting as times as a desert survival guide. He never allows his film to go over the top or become too contrived, playing down emotions with appropriate minimalism, and keeping a grip on reality with various quirks throughout the film. He simultaneously captures humour and tragedy in a great script, and soon the film becomes as much an insight into human beings as it is a tale of redemption. All the characters are in someway corrupt, whether it be down to Perkins' perpetration of his arguably justified crime, Norton's selfish vulgarity, Sheriff Belmont's turning the blind eye, or Norton's wife's infidelity. All of it is tied together by Melissa Leo's affectionate whore, the vital character who brings all the subplots together. But Jones doesn't just bring brilliance to the screen with his attention to detail or characters; the cinematography and how everything is edited and shot is captivating. The bulking white cumulus clouds loom menacingly in the pure blue sky, hanging over a desert of endless sand dunes, eroding caverns and scorching rock. Vicious ants and rattle snakes populate this arid wasteland, an inhabitable no-man's land that night as well be at the edge of the world than between two countries. All of it provides an eye-catching canvas, backed by some powerful but minimal Mexican music.

              The peformances that are extracted from Three Burials are strong from all parties, Melissa Leo as Rachel as suitably as worn as he is warm, whilst January Jones brings more to her role than mere typical innocence. Barry Pepper, on the other hand, brings Norton to life with a quiet obnoxious streak that he particularly vents in the desert and on unwitting Mexicans, and as we grow familiar with this dislikable man facing his impending doom, gradual sympathy develops for him. Despite the many strong performances, Pepper is what anchors the film, the character around which all the strife develops through his own negligence. This is not to say though that he ever upstages Tommy Lee Jones, who is fantastic as the eccentric, reserved Pete Perkins, minimal in his emotions, which in many ways makes it all the more affecting. His chemistry with Julio Cedillo in the several flashbacks of Melquiades Estrada provides a similarly minimalistic approach to their relationship, but a very touching one as we see them bond. The viewer truly comes to understand Perkins' motives, and whilst they may be insane, they are touching. Further notable support comes from Dwight Yoakam who maintains a tongue-in-cheek, apathetic tone as the Sheriff, but a moving cameo comes from Levon Helm as an isolated old man in the middle of the desert.

              Although the Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is somewhat flawed, mostly in its non-linear first part, it's one of those films that makes a lasting impression and that can be thought about long after it ends. The ambiguity in everything from motives and characters, to open-ended conclusions makes for something to think about. It's a great rendition of the Western in the modern genre, though is never groundbreaking. A touching, low-key and dry-humoured tale, the Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is one of those many hidden gems of cinema that has a firm understanding of people and what they are driven to do in extremes. It is not so much a Western as it is a character drama set against the backdrop of the forgotten frontier.

              Comments

              Login or register to add comments
              • More +
                23.08.2006 13:46
                Very helpful
                (Rating)
                6 Comments

                Advantages

                Disadvantages

                destined to be a cult classic

                Please note this is a film only review and makes no mention of DVD format extras.


                At a time when the world as at it most mistrusting in a cross cultural sense, with one secular or religious group suspiciously eying and pointing fingers at the next, this film, in many ways is well timed and very relevant. But with the focus on the middle east and 9/11 in films and on TV maybe for a more general understanding of cultural intolerance we need to step back a little further, forget the specifics and just view these problems from a higher, less specific position. Tommy Lee Jones directorial debut offers us this and much more besides. By focusing on a story that takes place over the Texas-Mexican border and the relationships and attitudes formed between the two sides, "The Three Burials of Meiquiades Estrada" acts as a microcosm of human nature and makes for a good analogy of a much bigger problem. Jones said in a recent interview "What I'd like the audience to take away is the realisation that its possible to look across the river and see yourself"

                Whilst the basic plot is a simple one the way it plays is not, as you would expect from screen writer Guillermo Arriaga, the man that brought you 21 Grams, a film that has the same fractured storyline style as this. Simply put it is a story of a friendship, revenge and justice. But it's not the usual eye-for-an-eye justice usual to this sort of film, but more of a poetic justice, which raises this tale to the realms of parable whilst keeping it realistic and human. Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) is a grizzled ranch foreman who hires and then befriends illegal immigrant "Mel" Estrada. When Mel is found shot and hidden in the desert, the first of the three burials of the title, Pete resolves to take his friend s body over the border to bury him in his home town in Mexico. This is where his problems begin as he faces racism and deliberate awkwardness of the officials and Pete finds his only way out is to steal the body to do what is right by his friend. This puts him in conflict with a jaded border patrolman, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) who becomes entwined in Pete's plans and carried along against his will.

                Jones has created a real Tex-Mex back drop to play his story against, a contemporary western in the style of Peckenpah and especially referencing his 1974 nihilistic romantic "Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" Its use of a killing to highlight the tensions in the heterogeneous southern frontier communities smacks also of John Sayles powerful "Lone Star". There is a lot of symbolism at work here and the characters themselves stand in for bigger concepts. The dead body of Estrada represents a complex question about the illegal immigrant, controversial and unplaceable. Throughout the course of the film his body is subjected to all number of horrors and ill treatment and is somehow transformed in the eyes of the view from the lifeless body of a lost and misplaced ordinary Mexican into an almost saintly figure being taken on a pilgrimage of grace towards his rightful resting place.

                As you might expect the journey being undertaken here is not so much physical but more in the soul and neither is it Pete's journey that is the important one here. It is the rookie patrolman Norton, representing the sad, vacant, materialistic lives on the American side of the border who is forced to confront the world that he lives so close to yet has no understanding of and undergoes a forced evolution into the opposite of a wetback, wearing Estrada's discarded clothes as they head down Mexico way. It's one of those films that really leave you thinking about a lot of stuff, from mortality and loss to the very real problems of racism and inhumanity. It's never preachy or self-aware and isn't out to impress, it's just telling a story. I highly recommend this movie. Tommy Lee Jones is blessed to be working on his first venture with the great cinematographer Chris Menges. Mr. Menges' take on the scenery is one of the best things in the film, much of which was filmed on Jones own west Texas ranch. The musical score by Marco Beltrami is also another asset. The editing of Roberto Silvi sets the tone for the early part of the movie. The script is so well conceived that even though the characters do many misguided things, the viewer can still understand why they are the way they are, there's no polarised good and evil just intertwined human traits.

                Jones film is a powder keg, filled with brutality, gallows humour and deep soul-searching questions, which explode in compassion when you are least expecting it. A great, challenging but ultimately very rewarding film.

                Comments

                Login or register to add comments
              • Product Details

                A man is shot and quickly buried in the high desert of west Texas. The body is found and reburied in Van Horn's town cemetery. Pete Perkins, a local ranch foreman, kidnaps a Border Patrolman and forces him to disinter the body. With his captive in tow and the body tied to a mule, Pete undertakes a dangerous and quixotic journey into Mexico.