out of Five
Running time: 121
Intriguingly structured, beautifully shot and superbly acted Western – this is one of the highlights of the year.
What’s it all about?
When the body of murdered Mexican immigrant Melquiades Estrada is found in a shallow grave in a Texan border town, the local sheriff (Dwight Yoakam) makes no attempt to solve the case and the body is reburied in a pauper’s grave.
However, the local ranch foreman, Pete (Tommy Lee Jones) was Melquiades’ best friend and he decides to take matters into his own hands. He solves the case, kidnaps Melquiades’ killer, Mike (Barry Pepper), digs up the body and forces Mike to help him transport the corpse over the border, in order to give Melquiades a decent burial in Mexico.
Three Burials is written by Guillermo Arriaga, who performs the same structural and chronological tricks in the first half of Three Burials as he did on his previous film, 21 Grams. The film is beautifully shot, subtly making the powerful point that America and Mexico are indistinguishable once you cross the border and that, in terms of the physical landscape, they are the same country.
Three Burials deservedly won both Best Screenplay and Best Actor at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Jones is on career best form as Pete and he keeps us guessing right to the end as to his true intentions towards Mike Pepper is equally good, managing to gradually earn our sympathy along with his own redemption – it’s easily his best role to date.
In short, this is an engaging, superbly written and beautifully acted film that is ultimately extremely moving. Highly recommended.
Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, The (Los Tres Entierros De Melquiades Estrada) (15)