Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Tommy Lee Jones’ Directorial debut is a modern day Western set in Texas and Northern Mexico and is about the death of Mexican cowboy Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo). Before his death he made his friend Pete (Tommy Lee Jones) promise to bury him in his small town of birth, Jimenez, across the border in Mexico. Pete kidnaps the boarder patrolman Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) who shot Estrada and the two of them set out in search of Jimenez.  

One of the films strengths is that it sometimes shows the same incident from two different character’s perspectives which help the audience to decide who they believe is in the right or wrong or build up a better understanding of proceedings. This however helps to add to one of the films downfalls which is the non-linear way the plot unfolds in the first act. I found myself confused for the first half an hour or so until I worked out who everyone was and what their place in the movie was. Once I’d figured out who everyone was, I then had trouble understanding what anyone was saying. The Spanish dialogue is subtitled but I could have done with subtitles for the mumbled Texan accents that were prevalent. At times I honestly had no idea what was being said.

The story is kind of interesting but I didn’t have enough love for Tommy Lee Jones or Julio Cedillo’s characters to really care either way and Barry Pepper’s Mike Norton is made out to be quite a nasty character so I certainly didn’t care what happened to him. His partial redemption towards the end wasn’t enough for me. I think that there was another film in there, based on the relationship between Barry Pepper and his wife January Jones. The acting on the whole was very good. Tommy Lee Jones as usual was great and Barry Pepper showed greater range than I’d witnessed from him before. Even January Jones was acceptable, the best I’ve seen from her too. Melissa Leo stood out but her role was very small.

Tommy Lee Jones gave me no reason to think that he couldn’t or shouldn’t direct again but there was no wow factor. He manages to get good performances however and the locations are pretty. The film in general is fine but I wasn’t very interested in the plot.  


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