Oscar® winner Tommy Lee Jones (Best Supporting Actor, The Fugitive, 1993) directs and stars in this poetic and striking modern-day Western. Peter Perkins (Jones) is a veteran cowboy who embodies the values of the old west,... more » living in a small Texas town bordering the U.S. and Mexico. He hires Melquiades Estrada as a ranch hand and quickly befriends the man. But when Estrada is gunned down under mysterious circumstances, Perkins takes justice into his own hands and kidnaps a trigger-happy border patrolman (Barry Pepper - Saving Private Ryan), forcing Perkins to unearth Estrada's body and accompany Perkins on horseback on the long and treacherous journey through the frontier mountains and back roads of Mexico to bring his friend's body home.« less
George K. from COLCHESTER, CT Reviewed on 8/5/2013...
This is a great western. Don't let the six-gun on the cover art fool you. It's set in the contemporary American west, and it deals with the question of illegal immigration. And more. Lots more.
The main cast is flawless, with Tommy Lee Jones outdoing himself as a fair-minded Texan, with Barry Pepper giving a strong performance as a harsh border patrolman, January Jones as the patrolman's wife, and Melissa Leo as a well-traveled diner waitress. The supporting cast is excellent, as well.
If you don't like westerns, no problem. There's no showdown with six-guns blazing. Only a nicely paced, tensely dramatic story of friendship and redemption.
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We need not be outsiders
JackOfMostTrades | Washington, DC | 05/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great film replete with suggestive symbols of grace, redemption, magical thinking, loss and the boundaries that are personal, cultural, and spiritual, not merely geographic. Ironically, when a dreamless, aimless Barry Pepper, who seems already past his prime at 30 becomes a member of the border patrol, he shoots an anonymous Mexican (Jones's blood brother so to speak)--and not even having the sympathy to try to help him--in fact, not having the humanity to even touch him as he lies bleeding to death--is more concerned about his job than another human being. In this case the Mexican to him is merely a type, not really a person. On the other hand Tommy Lee Jones, who sees the person behind the persona, is more concerned about the soul than the outward trappings of language or labels. When he discovers his friend dies at the hands of Pepper, Jomes sits in his friend's modest shack just to feel his presence--to commune with his dead friend, as a means of coming to terms with his grief. Faced with the indifferent locals who would rather save their butts than save their souls, Jones takes it on himself to become the humanizing agent in a mercenary world. Forcing the border guard at gunpoint to accompany his friend to his final burial place, he traverses a bleak land that could be the Eliot's wasteland or the underworld. When he brings his friend home, he finds to his surprise, this beloved Mexican town is not what it is described to be. But as he understands that sometimes the imagination fulfills a purpose that life cannot, dignifies the death of his friend and redeems the humanity of the border guard. This film shows how human relations matter; how the electronic media are mere illusion producing devices; and even an old cowboy's body can find the fountain of youth by sticking to basic principles of human decency and understanding, and even the most direloneliness can be overcome even miles from home."
Unique and excellent Western!
Carol Engan Borrelli (author) | Central Florida, USA | 07/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a western movie lover. This was a movie that really scratched that itch. Tommy Lee Jones is terrific and shows once again what a fine actor he really is. Julio Cedillo, as Melquiades Estrada, is an excellent actor and also, ladies, very handsome. All in all, it is really an excellent movie.
The tale is one of deep friendship between two people that come from different worlds.....and the border that divides two countries as well as peoples' souls. It is a story of loyalty and dedication in the face of adversity. The scenery is excellent and the content is amazingly accurate, i.e. capturing the area of wilderness that lies in Texas and in Mexico.
It is a bit harsh at times, being that Tommy Lee Jones literally has his buddy dug up, after he is murdered, and then carts him back to his home in Mexico to be buried, all the while dragging with him an obnoxious and disgusting border patrol agent. You get over the harshness rather quickly, though, as you come to understand the principles behind the man and his actions.
Highly recommended, the movie takes you away from present day societal craziness for a while, and plunks you into present day rural craziness for a while. It was great."
Instills hope that movies can still be powerful.
Joel Munyon | Joliet, Illinois - the poohole of America. | 06/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let's face it, 2006-2007 have been two of the worse years in movie-making history. It seems like the well-thought-out drama has become extinct and given way to the slash-up-a-tourist or demon genres. Even the indy circuit seems pressed to deliver agenda-laden films instead of stories that speak to us. Upon viewing The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, however, I now know there is still hope.
It is clear that Jones poured his heart and soul into directing this film and for someone who co-starred in perhaps the western genres greatest story ever - Lonesome Dove - Jones was just the man to direct and star in this movie.
The story (written mastefully by Guillermo Arriaga) settles in on a friendship between two cowboys. One is a Texan (Jones) and the other is a gentle Mexican named Melquiades (Julio Cedillo). We see through flashbacks that the two men develop a quick and dynamic bond. This bond is so strong that it survives the death of Melquiades, who is killed by a trigger-happy and thoughtless border guard named Mike Norton (Barry Pepper). Pete Perkins (played by Jones) is determined to bury his friend in a town Melquiades called home while living in Mexico and makes sure that Norton comes along for the journey, willingly or otherwise.
Seldom have I witnessed a message as pure as the one found in this film, and that message revolves around the boundlessness of true friendship. Friendship does not come lightly to Pete Perkins as he sets out to honor the memory of his friend while at the same time attempting to teach Norton that real redemption comes at a high cost.
As for the last 10 minutes of the film, words cannot suffice. You will simply have to watch it and sit in awe of the power that comes from understanding wholly and completely the dreams of another and making them your own. It is here, at the end of the journey, where we see the world as Perkins sees it, and as Melquiades first saw it.
Cap'n Call rides again
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 02/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the last episode of the magnificent 1989 TV miniseries LONESOME DOVE, set in the last quarter of the 19th century American West, Captain Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) schleps by pack horse the body of his long-time trail pard Gus MacRae (Robert Duvall) back to south Texas from the latter's death place in Montana. It's a long, hard ride. Here, in THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA, Tommy Lee's role is very reminiscent of his earlier one, but this time in a contemporary setting and much more grisly.
As TBoME opens, two hunters in the Texas desert come across the coyote-ravaged body of a male Hispanic that had been hidden in the brush - the First Burial. He's identified as an illegal alien ranch worker - "undocumented immigrant" laborer according to PC terminology - by the local authorities, and subsequently buried in a pauper's grave - the Second Burial. He'd been shot to death by an unknown assailant.
In flashback, we see that the dead man was Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo), a Mexican vaquero working on a local Texan ranch, where he'd been befriended by American cowboy Pete Perkins (Jones). The two had become compadres, drinking and womanizing together - real Guy Stuff. In a moment of sentimentality, Perkins promised to convey Estrada's body back home to an isolated, tiny hamlet in northern Mexico should the latter ever die on the U.S. side of the border. Melquiades shows Perkins a picture of his wife and writes out rough directions to the place, just in case.
The only evidence at the scene of the shooting is a spent rifle cartridge, which, to Pete's experienced eyes, could only belong to the U.S. Border Patrol. He's enraged when that agency refuses to investigate further into the death of his friend. Later, through a third party, Perkins learns the identity of the shooter, border patrolman Mike Norton (Barry Pepper), who regards illegal border crossers as something less than human. Pete saddles up and sets about fulfilling his promise to Melquiades, while taking the opportunity to teach Mike a well-deserved lesson. By this time in the screen action, however, the viewer has also seen a flashback to the circumstances surrounding Estrada's death, which perhaps leaves the audience with a trace of pity for the otherwise unlikable Norton.
While a tangential (un)intended effect of TBoME is to engender sympathy for the thousands of impoverished illegals crossing America's southern border every year, the main message is one of God's righteous retribution. And who better to be its deliverer than the craggy, weather-beaten, and tough Jones? (For all I know, God's visage is that of Tommy Lee.) In LONESOME DOVE, Cap'n Call declares that he won't tolerate rude behavior in a man after having given an appropriate thumping to a loutish Army scout. Here, Perkins has that same aversion, and proceeds to demonstrate to a level that perhaps has the viewer wondering if he's a bit too zealous in making his point. However, Divine Justice can be hard and gritty, especially in south Texas.
I saw TBoME at a private studio screening in November of '05. Coming out, I thought it, like THE LIBERTINE starring Johnny Depp, would not be amenable to a holiday season release. It's definitely not a picture for the frivolous only out for a dinner & movie feel-good experience. This is a tough and uncompromising morality play about private responsibility, personal accountability, friendship, loyalty, and redress of a wrong. As such, it may be limited to the movie art houses, and is worth seeking out if it's not at your local megaplex in company with the usual cinematic fluff.
TBoME isn't Best Picture material, but I'm giving five stars because it makes its point forcefully and faultlessly, and Tommy Lee Jones is in top form. "
Enigmatic, mysterious, depressingly new while beautifully ol
Thucydides 1 | USA | 07/01/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The movie may be misunderstood as being some kind of set-piece for the current illegal alien controversy, but I think it was intended to be much more and much deeper than that, if I've understood anything at all about Tommy Lee Jones. My viewpoint is different from most because I lived for years in the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas. I've jeeped in vast, wild areas there with nothing but a companion, food, beer, and our weapons. I loved the Mexican people who lived there, along with the other "gringos" like me, who were often misfits, derelicts, outcasts from the defunct oil fields, and more than a few borderline criminals in a savagely cruel border land.
My wife hated the movie, and I don't think many women will like it. It's a man's movie, as most of Mr. Jones' movies are. The appeal is limited to Westerners, I think, because I doubt that anyone seeing this in, say, Indianapolis, or Boston, will have any idea what the hell it's all about, or that such a thing could even be possible. It can. Actually, I'd say that if I read about such a thing happening in the El Paso Times it wouldn't surprise me overly. Nobody ever went jeeping in the Daylight Draw from the Rio Grande up to Sierra Blanca, Texas, without a revolver and a rifle, but how do you explain why that it is to someone who's never been west of the Pecos River?
Well, it's about a man, his friend, the man's anger, the man's outrage over the death of his friend, and the relentless, untiring pursuit of justice, set in an ancient, hostile, horribly beautiful country, surprisingly little disturbed by "civilized" men since the Spanish blundered over it centures ago. And it's about indifference, shallow stupidity, crude sex, and the infliction of TV on rural Mexicans. I don't know which is worse... but it seasons the flavor of what you, the viewer, come to see as the utter reality of such a place in this time.
Mr. Pepper's performance is surprising, authentic, and probably more like that of some poor interloper from Indianapolis than anything else. He ought to be nominated for an Academy Award, but he won't be. Tommy Lee Jones really appears as himself, by contrast. Honest, loyal, devoted, hard as flint, and very, very West Texas. Mil gracias, Senior Jones!