Thu 12 Jan 2006
I fail to see the humor in that comment.
Making his feature film directorial debut, Tommy Lee Jones brings us “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”.
The story is fairly simple. Jones hires an illegal immigrant (the titular Melquiades played by Julio Cesar Cedillo) to be a ranch hand and they become best friends. Melquiades is killed by a border patrol agent (Barry Pepper) and the sheriff (Dwight Yoakam) won’t arrest him. So Jones kidnaps Pepper and they dig up Melquiades’ body to take him back to Mexico for burial.
The lead actors are nothing short of amazing and the supporting ones follow their example. Of particular interest are Yoakam and two others; January Jones and Melissa Leo. Jones has mostly dealt with comedy fare but shows off her acting chops in this film and Leo you may remember as Benicio Del Toro’s wife in “21 Grams”. Her role in that movie should have been nominated for best supporting actress and if she had anymore screen time in “Three Burials”, I would recommend her this year.
Jones’ talent as a director is evident in his telling of the film. The action is framed well and he takes advantage of the natural beauty of the landscape. I look forward to seeing future efforts from him, whether or not he is also in front of the camera.
However, there was one downside to the film. The story is broken up into three sections, each denoting a ‘burial’ of Melquiades. However, in doing it in this fashion, the film jumps back and forth quite a bit. It is reminiscent of “21 Grams”, only where I thought it worked in that film to layer the drama and consequences of the characters’ actions, I think it backfires in “Three Burials”.
This seems to be the motis operandi of screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. He is building an impressive pedigree of films (“21 Grams” and “Amores Perros”). When you see his name in the credits, you can be assured the characters will be gritty and complex. However, I hope we don’t see him using the same jumping time plot device very often in the future.
That aside, all of the acting is excellent and the story is compelling. “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” gets a 4 out of 5 from me and I’m also giving a strong recommendation to you to see the film.