46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low Key character driven latter day Western
Superb effort from Tommy Lee Jones - this is both restrained and intense at the same time, telling a story of unexpected redemption. Fans of Jones or Westerns beware - this is no action movie or thriller - this is low key and driven by the characters. And what great characters they are, with superb performances, especially from Barry Pepper. The Texas / Mexico border...
Published on 3 Dec 2006 by Mr. Stephen Kennedy
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three stars for three burials
Three Burials or 'The three Burials of Melquiades Estrada' is an engaging film in a way that a 12 course meal is engaging. It isn't edge of your seat, but it keeps you wondering what the next course is going to be and at the end of it, you don't quite remember the first courses, but you have this overall feeling of being well-fed.
Poor analogy, but i...
Published on 7 Sep 2009 by Peter Roxburgh
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low Key character driven latter day Western,
This review is from: Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] (DVD)Superb effort from Tommy Lee Jones - this is both restrained and intense at the same time, telling a story of unexpected redemption. Fans of Jones or Westerns beware - this is no action movie or thriller - this is low key and driven by the characters. And what great characters they are, with superb performances, especially from Barry Pepper. The Texas / Mexico border atmosphere of decaying towns and morals is played unflinchingly, with a story being told amongst the minutiae of everyday life - how many movies zoom in on one of the main characters clipping their toenails while watching TV..? The alienation inherent in the small town where everyone knows everyone and yet are emotionally distant, is contrasted with the Jones character's deep friendship, if not platonic love, for his Mexican friend - to great effect.
The story has been covered in more detail elsewhere, but in a nutshell - a Mexican is shot by accident, and his friend (Jones) has promised him he would bury him in Mexico. He kidnaps the man responsible when the local police do nothing, and takes him on a journey to find the Mexican's home to bury him, and find some redemption along the way.
Barry Pepper plays the unpleasant, narcissistic and immature young border guard who goes unwillingly on a journey through which he comes of age. He plays it to perfection. Jones is the big surprise, both in his restrained performance of a man acting on deep friendship, loyalty and a sense of justice, and also in his direction of the movie. The cinematography captures the starkly beautiful scenery, and the editing cleverly tells the beginning of the story in a bravely non linear way which only adds to the strength and sense of the story.
Kudos to Jones, then, for taking thought provoking material like this and making a genuine minor classic out of it. It deservedly won the Cannes Festival best Actor and Best screenplay awards.
In short, a bleak, but ultimately uplifting movie most assuredly not for the action buffs, but for those who thrive on real characters in extraordinary circumstances. And did I mention the stunning scenery...?
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprise surprise,
This review is from: Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] (DVD)Saw Three Burials on a flight from HK back to the UK. Watched it because I couldn't find anything else that sparked my interest. Was glad I did, as it was one of the best films I have seen in a very long time. Very un-American in its construct and any feel-good factor coming from the storyline was unconventional in nature. I highly recommend this refreashing film.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is the journey to the final burial that matters in this object lesson,
This review is from: Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)I suspected that "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" had to be a pretty good story to not only get Tommy Lee Jones to work behind the camera as a director for the first time, but also to get him to once again play a cowboy taking the corpse of his friend home. What this 2006 film has in common with "Lonesome Dove" is not the transportation of a dead friend to his rightful final resting place, but rather the way the act defines both the man and the friendship. The important difference is that this time the character Jones plays takes another living soul along on the journey south.
Jones plays Pete Perkins, who runs a small cattle ranch and has hired Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo), an illegal immigrant from Mexico, to work with him. When Melquiades is killed and the local sheriff (Dwight Yoakam) refuses to do anything about it, Pete takes care of matters himself. He finds out that a young Border Patrol agent, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper), killed Melquiades, Pete captures him. Norton had buried Melquiades to hide the crime and then the body was buried a second time. Now Pete makes Norton did up the body of the man he killed, and then they head off on horses to Mexico so that Pete's friend can be returned to his family and buried in the town of Jimenez south of the Border.
Essentially, then, you have three burials and a trip as the four key sections of the film. "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" is not a suspense film, where we wonder if Pete is going to be able to carry off his plans. There are obstacles, but his success is never in doubt. Pete is very much from the worldly school where a man does what a man has to do, and despite what the situation might force him to do we never forget that the corpse is the body of his friend. Pursuing Pete and his captive is problematic since what Norton has done would become public knowledge, and this film is decidedly set in a fairly private world. The punishment Pete has selected is not simply punitive, it is instructive and whether the credit belongs to the director or to writer Guillermo Arriaga ("Amores perros") it must be said this movie ends at the perfect moment on the perfect line.
There are other characters, most notably January Jones as Lou Ann Norton, Melissa Leo as Rachel, and Levon Helm as the Old Man with the Radio, but they are relatively insignificant given what is happening with Jones and Pepper. Flashbacks are used to show both Pete's friendship with Melquiades and to let us know exactly how he ended up getting killed. Neither Pete nor Norton are privy to the other halves of the story, but then their purpose is primarily to allow us to know how each man came to be in this peculiar situation. This is not a story about revenge, it is a character study and an object lesson. What makes it powerful is the elegance of its simplicity, but the subject matter and the deterioration of the title character's body will not appeal to everyone's sensibilities.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low key but great,
This review is from: Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] (DVD)The film is set on the U.S./Mexican border and initially concerns the lives of those who farm the local land or patrol the vast expanses of nothingness in a bid stop illegal immigrants crossing an invisible line. Life is desperate for the local women folk and they resort to affairs in an effort to spice things up, the men just satisfy themselves. A farmhand is killed and Tommy Lee Jone's character (a quiet man-with-no-name character) forces the killer to join him in returning the victims body to his homeland; a far away Mexican village. Three Burials echoes the simplicity of the great westerns of the Sixties, albeit with the occasionally nod to dark Lynch-ian humour. It reminded me a lot of "Stand By Me", in that not a lot actually happens, but its enough just to see the two characters develop and change as they slowly make their way through the landscape. It's kind of a buddy movie too, but with the caveat that neither of the men have anything in common and have no chance of ever ending up as buddies. Recommended.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and surreal with strong characters,
This review is from: Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] (DVD)I was first attracted to the advert in a newspaper for this movie when I saw the picture of St Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park where I had been visiting the previous year ( another five star rating as one of the USA's dramatic but one of the least visited National Parks by the way), then I saw Tommy Lee Jones was the director and guessed an excellent story was in the making. My girlfriend and I were not disappointed in any way. The plot is surreal and unfolds gradually and cleverly. If all you normally like are blockbuster Hollywood movies, then this film is not for you; but if you like the unravelling styles of Memento , Dogville or Road to Perdition and enjoy a real top notch tale then you will be warmly satisfied with The Three Burials.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 3 (plus 2) stars for Melquiades Estrada,
This review is from: Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] (DVD)A truly magnifecent piece of cinema that ranks amongst some of the modern classics of today such as Memento, Crash, Munich and the like. A film about justice and redemption it is small scale compared to say The Shawshank Redemption but this makes the veiwing more intense and claustrophobic.
Tommy Lee Jones gives a note perfect performance as the drifting rural man who must exact some form of higher calling for his soul-mate that once was- Melquiades Estrada. Barry Pepper is also very complimentary and serves the films dark core very well untill the final rell when only human nature will dictate proceedings.
A mention to the great camera work and understated and perfect musical score is to be given a big thumbs up. Focusing on the dark, uncivilised and bizarre almost-backward corners of some parts of america are observed and we can understand that as people we must get through life doing what make us happy until mistakes are made. And sometimes you have to pay for those mistakes! Great movie.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a Springsteen song made into a movie.,
This review is from: Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] (DVD)Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is a truly brilliant and mature film. Having starred in some great movies and delivered some excellent performances Tommy Lee Jones now directs a truly briliant film.
It is a film about valour, honour, revenge and redemption and Jones plays a modern day cowboy reminicent of his character Captain Call from Lonesome Dove who makes a promise to his friend, a Mexican called Melquiades Estrada that on event of his death he will return his body to his hometown in Mexico.
When Melquiades is killed by a border patrol guard played by Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan), Tommy Lee looks to fufill his promise and avenge his friend's death. The results are brutal and surprising and somehow Jones manages to inject some subtle humour into the film.
The story reminds me in parts of Bruce Springsteen's Ghost of Tom Joad album not because it contains a song about a Border Patrol Guard but more for its songs dealing with dark, dirty and double crossing people of the modern day American Frontier.
Jones is excellent as the lead role, Pepper is superb as the killer / Border Patrol Gaurd and there's an as always great effort by country singer Dwight Yoakham (South of Heaven West of Hell). A mention to also for Chris Menges' Cinematography which is top notch.
This film will suit fans of the Western and fans of films that explore the human condition alike. It is full of character study and the unpredictability of people thrown into difficult situations.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 21st century Western revenge/redemption tale,
This review is from: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada  (REGION 1) (NTSC) (DVD)In the beginning this reminded me of The Border (1982) starring Jack Nicholson and Harvey Keitel. A new border guard and his wife arrive in a south Texas town and live in a trailer. She's bored stiff while her husband learns the new job and the border patrol culture. However instead of all the corruption that Jack Nicholson found, here we find that it is the new border guard who is morally corrupt. What is surprising is how easily Three Burials gradually turns into a 21st century Western with the classic revenge theme played out in a most dramatic way.
Tommy Lee Jones stars as Pete Perkins, a weathered cowboy somewhat past his prime who befriends a Mexican--the Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedilla) of the title--who has come across the border. One day when the new border guard Mike Norton is out in the hills looking for wetbacks (actually horny Mike has a Hustler magazine in his hands and his pants half down, and he's about to do something else) he hears a rifle shot nearby. He pulls his pants up, runs to his vehicle, grabs his rifle and then just shoots the first target he sees. It's Melquiades Estrada. And he is now dead. Turns out Melquiades was shooting at a coyote that was after his herd of goats.
Meanwhile (back at the ranch, so to speak) Mike Norton's wife Lou Ann (January Jones), still bored to tears, has become friends with Rachel (Melissa Lee), a saucy waitress who sets up an adulterous double date with Pete (for her) and Melquiades (for Lou Ann). Well, this could get complex and lead to trouble big time for somebody. Maybe.
Dwight Yoakam plays a sheriff named Belmont who is being harangued by Pete to find out who shot Melquiades. But Belmont is in no hurry since this is just a wetback and especially since it looks like it might have been a border patrol shooting. I forget why the body is dug up the first time but the second comes after Pete learns from Rachel that it was Mike Norton who pulled the trigger. Pete takes the law into his own hands and kidnaps Mike and makes him dig up the somewhat decomposing body the second time. Pete is sworn to take the body of his friend back to the little town from which Melquiades sprang. Mike in handcuffs is going along for the ride. And a hellish ride it will be. The third burial comes near the end of the film, and you can guess who's going to do the digging.
What makes this work is the fine acting all around and the realistic feel created by Tommy Lee Jones. The trek south is filled with adventure and danger, and along the way Mike begins a forced atonement for his crime. The character of Pete Perkins is one you'll not soon forget. He is an eccentric hero, strong and morally steadfast. It's an interesting tale very well presented with a lot of color and atmosphere.
See this for Tommy Lee Jones who gives a fine performance directing himself in his feature film directorial debut.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The border fights back,
This review is from: Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] (DVD)The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (and for ease of comprehension henceforth simply the Three Burials), is not a conventional film that is easy to pigeon hole into one of the genre slots Hollywood generally prefers to place its films. But then in having Tommy Lee Jones as a director the film has already slid beyond the conventional into strange territory.
How best to describe this film? It has the look and feel of a western, only the cowboys are Mexican and the good ole Texan Americans have a tendency to be outwitted, outfoxed and occasionally pistol whipped by the Hispanics. The action centres around just two main characters, three if one counts the corpse of the title character which is hauled from the Texan borders to the heart of a Mexican Elysium. So without the pitched battles, the towns under threat from rampaging Indians and the good forces of law and order winning through it is difficult to pin this down as a western.
Could it fit as a road movie? It may sound stupid, as cars are quickly abandoned in favour of horses and mules. But it does have many of the qualities of the typical road movie - the focus on just two characters and the building of a mutual trust and liking, or at the very least the dissipation of hatred and vengeance.
Put more simply the Three Burials is a film that gloriously defies convention. The story line is seemingly implausible, but is played with such panache by the lead characters that this quest for revenge and honour seems perfectly logical. Without giving away too much the idea of the film is that the US Border Patrol have sent a gung-ho young officer and his Cincinnati-dreaming, mall loving wife to the badlands of the Texas-Mexico border. The colour of his character is soon shown by his almost sadistic beating of border crossers. It comes as little surprise that the bullet that leads to the first of the three burials of MC is fired from the quick aim of this new and volatile officer.
What causes maximum offence in liberal London and stirred controversy in the USA was the unwillingness of the authorities to investigate the murder. The lead officers of both the Border Patrol and the Police don't want no trouble, and so come to a gentleman's agreement to have the incident swept under the rubble of a pauper's grave. But they haven't factored in Melquiades's best, if not only friend in the world, who carries his promise to deliver Melquiades's body to his home town to the literal and appalling conclusion.
This may paint a dour picture of a film that has several touches of comic genius. Pete Perkins is played dead pan in a consumate performance by Tommy Lee Jones, which makes the juxtaposition of his seriousness of purpose and the ever degrading corpse of his friend darkly humorous. Even the quasi-torture of the border officer, who is kidnapped and roped in to helping carry out the repatriation, becomes comic. The white man trying to escape, handcuffed, with no shoes, and miles of desert behind and in front of him is both futile and hilarious.
In short the film offers far more than I first expected. The central story line, cinematography and direction owe a lot to Quentin Tarantino, and in particular has the look and feel of Kill Bill. I feel that any depiction of the small town police is going to have the stamp of Mr Tarintino for some years to come. But Tommy Lee goes further, presenting a fascinating glimpse into the life of a town that can barely survive on the fringes of the world's richest society, yet is the destination of choice for those Mexicans seeking a better life. The towns people are shown to be cruel, indifferent or pragmatic. As one officer points out, `someone has to pick the strawberries'.
My only criticism of an otherwise excellent film, and the reason for dropping it down to 4.5 stars, is that the ending leaves much to be desired. Maybe it was just intended to present an incompleteness to demonstrate the incompleteness of the protagonists' situations and of the Mexicans in the USA in general. Whilst I am far from advocating the need for films to tell all, and reveal every secret, this just left a few too many questions unanswered for any sense of completeness.
With the current debate raging over the granting of temporary work visas, and with a president very much in touch and in sympathy with the immigrant population, it presents a timely and poignant portrayal of the real world of border policing. All this, and a romping tale of revenge and comeuppance in the name of the dead Mexican. Who could ask for more?
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three stars for three burials,
This review is from: Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] (DVD)Three Burials or 'The three Burials of Melquiades Estrada' is an engaging film in a way that a 12 course meal is engaging. It isn't edge of your seat, but it keeps you wondering what the next course is going to be and at the end of it, you don't quite remember the first courses, but you have this overall feeling of being well-fed.
Poor analogy, but i tried!
Anyway, to the movie.
When the cover says 'a modern western' please don't think Clint Eastwood and the like. This is set in modern-day Texas and just across the border into Mexico. It focuses on about 5 key characters. Ofcourse, Tommy Lee JOnes' character and Melquiades Estrada are central to the story (hence the name of the film!).
There are multiple mini-stories woven together. The main theme I felt that came through was that of Karma, or 'what goes around comes around'. It is one of those movies that you will appreciate for its depth, even if there isn't much speed to it. I can imagine myself watching it at least another couple of times to dig down into the many layers of story, moral and character that underlie this film.
Needless to say, it isn't one of those films that you sit down to watch with a group of friends for some light entertainment. It is for the discerning viewer, the film student and the real or wannabe philosopher. Perfect film to watch if you are into lengthy discussions or checking out forums on IMDB!
The acting is satisfactory, the mesh of characters intriguing and the plot is a bit like the long and varied journey across the border.
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Three Burials - The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD] by Tommy Lee Jones (DVD - 2006)