The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
Mike Norton (Barry Pepper), a cocky border control guard with a violent streak, accidentally kills an immigrant and attempts to cover it up by burying the body. Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) finds out about his good friend’s death and the culprit behind it, and decides to take matters into his own hands when law enforcement turns a blind eye. After abducting the remorseless border guard, Perkins embarks on an epic journey to return the body to Melquiades’s homeland.
Outside of a 1995 TV movie (The Good Old Boys), this is first feature directed by Tommy Lee Jones. The film won Best Actor (Jones) and Best Screenplay at Cannes. Mexican author and friend of Jones, Guillermo Arriaga, who also wrote the screenplay for 21 Grams (2003) and Amores Perros (2000), originally wrote the script entirely in Spanish.
More of a modern adaptation of classical themes reconstructed in non-linear narrative than a groundbreakingly original work, nonetheless, the film is solid. A far cry from the pedantic, neatly pre-packaged moralizing rant of Paul Haggis’s Crash regarding social ethics, however, the film is guilty of being a bit overly sentimental at times.
Jones describes the project in his own words: “I wanted essentially to make a study in social contrast between the land that's south of the Rio Grande River and the land that’s north of it. I wanted to understand how things are the same, and how they’re different, how they’re in and out of human control, what ironies might exist there, what injustices, what glory, beauty and redemption you can find in this area that has its own character, its own quality, something that cannot be imposed, something that has grown, and evolved, something that cannot be controlled.”
DVD Extras C+