Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: Grade A

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cedillo

Set in modern day rural Texas (somewhere near Odessa), a young, emotionally stunted border patrolman (Pepper) reflexively, but accidentally shoots an innocent man out in the desert, and buries the body to cover it up. The man was a best friend and employee of TLJ, ranch manager. The body is found, circumstances implicate the border patrol, but there is no investigation, to keep things quiet. TLJ kidnaps the patrolman, makes him exhume his friend’s body and drags them both on horseback to Mexico for a proper burial in his home town. Some fine, macabre scenes involving the corpse. Beautiful scenery, and a good story between the two men on the journey, like many others where two antagonists are tied together on a long trip. The story takes place in some surrealistic world, as in Leone’s Westerns. Even the “in-town” scenes are otherworldly. This allows the characters to be symbols of human qualities rather than actual people. That strategy works. Ultimately it is a story of friendship, commitment, forgiveness and redemption. There is a political subtheme about immigration and the border patrol. Even at two hours, I didn’t want it to end. It’s TLJ’s first time directing a film, and the directing is noticeably excellent. Acting by Pepper is remarkable, and not bad for TLJ either (especially his drunk scene). Many unknown Latino actors do outstanding work. Photography is terrific. The music is inoffensive, suggestive again of the Sergio Leone spaghetti pictures.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this film. I have lived in a border town for 26 years. The performances by TLJ and Barry Pepper were riveting to say the least. To me, this was a film about respect, loyalty and punishment. The cinematography captured the astonishing beauty of the Southwestern desert and the fact that it commands respect. No amount of alpha male bravado will ensure your survival there. This film was so much like the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels that I treasure. The film captured the loneliness, desolation and absurdity found within those pages. I agree, Grade A!