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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (R)

Release Date: February 3rd, 2005 (Landmark Sunshine Cinemas)
One Week Oscar-Qualifying Run: December 14th, 2005 (NYC-Landmark Sunshine Cinemas) by Sony Pictures Classics.
The Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cedillio, Dwight Yoakam, January Jones, Melissa Leo, Vanessa Bauche, Levon Helm.
Directed by Tommy Lee Jones.
In Spanish with subtitles and in English.

BASIC PREMISE: Pete (Jones) travels through the Texas desert to find the proper burial site for Melquides Estrada while kidnapping his murderer (Pepper).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Tommy Lee Jones gives the best performance of his career as Pete, a ranch foreman who takes the law into his own hands after Melquiades, his good friend, is murdered. Jones also masters speaking Spanish surprisingly well. The plot begins just as Melquiades gets buried, unburied, and then re-buried. Essentially, the first act occurs in flashback with scenes in which Pete and Melquiades talk and laugh together. In another flashback, you see Mike, a border patrolman accidentally shoot and kill Melquiades from a distance. You can tell a lot about Mike just by observing him. He wears dirty clothes, has bad manners, and he’s verbally and physically abusive to his beautiful wife (Leo). The adventure begins once Pete kidnaps him, forces him to dig up Melquiades, and join him for a ride through the desert on a horse. What makes this film so compelling is that the well-written script makes the characters so rich with character and, most importantly, realistic. A few cringe-worthy scenes include the treatment of a poisonous snakebite as well as shots of Melquides’ rotting corpse. There are a few cat-and-mouse chases, but this is primarily a character-driven film. In many ways, the desert scenery seems like a character of its own with its rugged beauty. Although the pace moves rather slowly, it never drags because you really care about what happens to Pete as he brings Mike along with him to give Melquides his final burial.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Pete’s devotion to his friendship with Melquiades is moving at times. He risks his life and reputation just to show how much he respects his friend, even though he’s dead. Also, by bringing along Mike for the ride, he emphasizes the notion of redemption for one’s sins. He carries Melquiades’ corpse so that Mike can be fully aware of his sins to understand why he must ask for forgiveness—not just for the sake of his own life, but for the sake of humanity.



THE BOTTOM LINE: Tommy Lee Jones gives a terrific performance! Richly-textured, moving, and true-to-life with beautiful cinematography!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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