Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper,
Julio Cedilla, January Jones, Melissa Leo, Dwight
Yoakam, Levon Helm
Released by: Sony Pictures
Short: Personal loyalty crashes hard into
racial prejudice in this bloody modern-day western
set against the unforgiving landscape of the
the Distance for Friendship
took veteran Academy Award-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones
until he was almost sixty years old to direct his first
feature film, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,"
and he has pulled it off with aplomb. A compelling and
often brutal tale of friendship, murder, racism and revenge
set against the sere desert vistas of southwest Texas
and Mexico, the multi-layered movie takes the audience
on an unforgettable journey.
also stars in the film as ranch foreman Pete Perkins,
a grizzled cowboy whose best friend is Melquiades Estrada
(Julio Cedillo). Estrada is one of Perkins' ranch hands
and a Mexican illegal alien who has lived in their small
Texas border town for more than a dozen years. Jones masterfully
establishes the rhythms, relationships and prejudices
in the small town before the film’s turning point,
when a newly arrived Border Patrol agent, Mike Norton
(Barry Pepper), accidentally shoots Estrada, then covers
up the incident.
Perkins isn't about to let his friend stay buried in an
unmarked grave, nor is he willing to let the killer get
away. Thus begins a very strange—and satisfying—road
trip. As the horseback trek to take Estrada’s remains
back to his Mexican home unfolds, Jones and Pepper give
the performances of their lives, one as a furious avenger
and the other as the initially defiant killer whose underlying
guilt slowly eats away at him as he is forced along the
taut script by Guillermo Arriaga ("21 Grams,”
"Amores Perros") is liberally sprinkled with
dark humor. Especially effective are January Jones (no
relation to Tommy Lee) as Norton's bored and disaffected
young wife, and Dwight Yoakam, playing a sad-sack sheriff.
film is distinctly brutal, and not for the squeamish.
But for any cinema lover who finds deeply layered stories
that explore characters’ innermost feelings to be
the ultimate turn on, this one's for you.