I didn't know quite what to expect with this movie but, after a fairly slow opening 30 minutes or so, it blindsided me by heading off on an unexpected path and, for the remaining hour and a half, I was totally hooked.
The central pair of Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Pepper are superb, as was January Jones as Pepper's bored wife. It was poignant too to see Levon Helm in one of his last roles. The wonderful scenery of the US/Mexican borderlands also made a truly spectacular backdrop.
Part mystery, part western, part road movie, part buddy movie and with a soupcon of black humour thrown in, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada will keep you enthralled and guessing to the very end.
Blu-ray image quality was perfect and 5.1 surround sound was used to good effect. Interviews and a making-of featurette complete the package. Don't expect rootin' tootin' shoot-outs but, if you're up for a slightly left-field movie that explores some fairly profound themes of cameraderie, consequences, revenge, obsession and redemption, then give this a try.
on 22 February 2016
This is a thoughtful, quiet and essentially character-driven piece, with solid performances all around. Tommy Lee Jones directs in an un-showy manner, aided and abetted by the sometimes striking photography of the arid Texas-Mexico borderland by DP Chris Menges. Composer Marco Beltrami contributes a sparse by effective music score.
The picture quality of the UK release from Optimum is okay but nothing to rave about. Readers should be aware that the transfer is single layered rather than double layered and is 1080i (i.e. interlaced) rather than being 1080p (progressive). I don't know what Optimum think they are doing. If you really like the film, then apparently the German release from Ascot Elite (which is English friendly) is the one to go for, with noticeably superior PQ.
on 3 September 2015
An intelligent modern day western directed by and starring the eminently watchable Tommy Lee Jones. It starts slowly and then carries on slowly in a lovely quirky way. This had slipped under my radar when first released and I'm so glad that I stumbled across it as it's a film that bears repeated viewings. Strangely, at time of writing, this hasn't got a U.S bluray release. Very odd.It was inspired by the real killing in Texas of a U.S teenager by Marines during an operation near the U.S /Mexican border as well as the book As I lay dying by William Faulkner.
on 15 August 2009
This is quite an enjoyable movie but marred by the first 40 minutes or so where an attempt is made to tell the story via a series of non-sequential flashbacks. So to put the story in some sort of order..
Melquiades Estrada (Mel) is a drifting illegal Mexican immigrant who is employed and befriended by Pete Perkins a ranch owner or manager (which isn't made clear). Mel tells Pete that should he die while in the USA he wants his body taken back to Mexico for burial and his wife and children (whom he shows a photo of to Pete) informed.
Mike Norton moves to the area from Connecticut with his wife, in order to take up employment with the Texas Border Patrol. Due to having little money they end up living in a trailer, Norton is portrayed as an intolerant bully both towards his wife and Mexican illegal immigrants who he physically abuses. With little else to do in the small town, Norton's wife starts spending time at the local short order cafe where she befriends the owner's wife Rachel. Rachel also appears bored with her (much older) husband and is having affairs with both Pete and the local sheriff.
One afternoon Pete suggests to Mel he needs to get "laid" and they arrange to meet Rachel and as it turns out Norton's wife (Lou-Ann) to visit the local "cheatin' motel". It's not clear whether Mel actually sleeps with Lou-Ann.
Some time later (not clear how long) Mel is back at his lodge tending the goats when he notices a coyote stalking the area. Reaching for a rifle he fires off two poorly aimed shots which miss the target but pass close to Patrolman Norton who has stopped in the brush to "amuse" himself while reading a girlie magazine. Thinking he is under attack he returns fire, one of the bullets striking and fatally wounding Mel. Rather than risk an enquiry, Norton buries Mel in a shallow grave (the First Burial).
After a further undefined passage of time, a pair of hunters near the spot notice the coyotes scavenging off something and on further investigation discover the animals have unearthed Mel's body. The authorities are informed and the corpse moved back to the town. However despite evidence linking the death to the Border Patrol, the case is covered up by the local law enforcement and Mel's body buried (for the second time) in a pauper's grave.
Pete is horrified by this and when, by chance, Rachel overhears that Norton was responsible and tells Pete, he arranges to kidnap Norton and together transport Mel's badly decaying body into Mexico in order to comply with his wishes.
What follows is a surrealistic and at times bizarre journey in a reversal of the traditional buddy movie, as they encounter various events and characters on the road.
The ending is not entirely satisfying, after it transpires that much of what Mel told Pete was probably a lie and the story ends without concluding what happened to the characters if/after they returned home. Tommy Lee Jones tries hard but seems to have lost the "outhouse, doghouse" spark he had in The Fugitive or Under Siege. This is a trend also apparent in Valley of Elah and No Country For Old Men, seems to struggle with this type of role. Nick Nolte or Clancy Brown would have been better cast as Pete IMHO.
Still it's an entertaining and thought provoking story, once you put the events into order. The Blu-Ray transfer is crisp and superb. Sound is good though not a huge surround film as you might expect. Four stars then, with one off for Tommy Lee Jone's acting plus the poor editing of the flashbacks.
on 8 October 2009
I watched this off the back of No Country for old men. I remember TLJ from films like The Fugitive and whilst he was OK, he was nothing special. Until No Country that is. I had never heard of this but saw that it had been reviewed quite favourably so gave it a go. I have to start with a warning though, this film moves slowly, very slowly, but it pulls you in and grabs your attention. It's not as good as No country. TLJ is good, but not quite as good, but it is a great film none the less. Very quirky and certainly off the beaten track of mainstream movies. So if you are in the mood for a subtle, slow burning character driven movie you could do much worse than this. I think it is a film that will divide reviewers but i loved it, and will watch it again. A very rare 5 stars.