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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada [DVD]
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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...?
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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.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2006
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.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
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.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2006
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2015
Great performances by the actors of the two main characters. The setting looks like a 19th century one but for those who know the region right now (between Texas and Coahuila) it doesn't look too far from the 21st century.
The story unfolds slowly but steadily, giving the movie a deepness that can be felt until the end. The end is quite tricky indeed because you never know if the story that he dead friend told was finally true or not. Superb!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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.
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https://www.google.co.uk/#q=synonyms+for+brilliant:
1. Brilliant
ˈbrɪlj(ə)nt/
adjective
adjective: brilliant
1. 1.
(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

2. 2.
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;
precocious;
informalbrainy, genius;
informalwhip-smart
"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"
3. 3.
Britishinformal
excellent; marvellous.
"we had a brilliant time"
synonyms: excellent, marvellous, superb, very good, first-rate, first-class, wonderful, outstanding, exceptional, magnificent, splendid, superlative, matchless, peerless; More
informalgreat, terrific, tremendous, smashing, fantastic, sensational, stellar, fabulous, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, ace, fab, A1, cool, awesome, amazeballs, magic, wicked, tip-top, top-notch, out of sight, out of this world, way-out, capital;
informalbrill, bosting;
informalbonzer;
informalspiffing, topping, top-hole, wizard
"we had a brilliant time"
antonyms: bad

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.
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