51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
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...?
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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.
on 2 April 2015
(of light or colour) very bright.
"brilliant sunshine illuminated the scene"
synonyms: bright, shining, blazing, dazzling, light; More
vivid, intense, ablaze, beaming, gleaming, glaring, luminous, lustrous, luminescent, radiant, incandescent, phosphorescent, scintillating, resplendent;
literaryirradiant, lucent, effulgent, refulgent, fulgent, lucid, glistering, coruscating, lambent, fulgurant, fulgurating, fulgurous
"a shaft of brilliant light"
vivid, intense, bright, blazing, dazzling
"a grassy meadow of brilliant green"
antonyms: dark, gloomy, dull
exceptionally clever or talented.
"he was quite brilliant and was promoted almost at once"
synonyms: gifted, talented, virtuoso, genius, accomplished, ingenious, masterly, inventive, creative; More
intelligent, bright, clever, smart, astute, acute, brainy, intellectual, profound;
skilful, able, expert, adept, elite, superior, crack, choice, first-class, first-rate, excellent;
educated, scholarly, learned, erudite, cerebral;
"a brilliant student"
antonyms: stupid, untalented
X outstanding; impressive.
"his brilliant career at Harvard"
synonyms: superb, magnificent, splendid, impressive, remarkable, exceptional, glorious, illustrious
"a brilliant display"
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synonyms: excellent, marvellous, superb, very good, first-rate, first-class, wonderful, outstanding, exceptional, magnificent, splendid, superlative, matchless, peerless; More
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informalspiffing, topping, top-hole, wizard
"we had a brilliant time"
I think each of the synonyms above could be used in a sentence describing this breathtakingly good movie.
A simple story of a man trying to come to terms with and make amends for the death of his friend at another's hands, making his own justice while trying to carry out the victim's wishes.
Tommy Lee Jones¡¦ genius shines through every aspect of this glorious movie. The teasing release of details about the killing and the background stories of the characters take up just the right amount of screentime before the journey.
Barry Pepper is superb, and all the supporting cast do great work. The two principal female characters are achingly wonderful in their broken lives. Melquiades himself looks and acts rather like a Mexican Father Dougal, someone who it's impossible to dislike for a second.
At the end, there isn't a full and simple resolution, something that can grate on me, but in this case, it¡¦s the journey that really matters. The film is really that good. Sometimes the learning journey for Barry Pepper¡¦s character takes over, and while this is not the cuddly, affectionate form of a big grin movie like "Driving Miss Daisy¨, it is still a Great Big Grinner.
Some of the comments on the DVD box are hard to understand, particularly comparisons with the blood drenched (and brilliant) movies of Sam Peckinpah, other than in the locations and filming of the people and the territory.
By turns tense, touching, puzzling, sad and hilariously, slapstick funny, this is another movie which cannot be recommended too highly. One element truly makes me ready to cry.
Just , well, blow me down brilliant.