Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Three Times Buried Is The Charm

No other film remotely resembles The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Sure, the movie does feature a grueling penance journey like Robert De Niro's The Mission, but all similarities end there. This is a cowboy movie with a dead Mexican wetback as the hero.

The lead character, craggy-faced nutjob rancher Tommy Lee Jones, is the most-moral but least-sane participant in the drama. Not your usual protagonist. Plus, the film manages to be as tenderhearted as it is morbid, a common aspect of Mexican culture but not Hollywood films.

Here's the story. Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) is a Texas border patrol agent, whose zeal for his work extends even to the point of neglecting a lonely wife (January Jones) and abusing illegal migrants. For him, it's all fun and games, till somebody loses an eye - and a heartbeat. He negligently slays Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo), then decides to shoot, shovel, and shut-up.

When the law discovers the body and then reburies it, no attempt is made to locate the perpetrator. So, Tommy Lee Jones digs up some evidence and his friend's corpse, before dragging the guilty party through a death-defying reverse border-crossing to bury a pal in his homeland.

Perhaps screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, who did Babel and 21 Grams, should stop composing scripts demonizing gringos and canonizing latinos. His point is getting old and racism may be starting to show.

Nevertheless, this movie is a touching statement that the abundant money and technology North of the Rio Grande are no substitute for the heart and spirit that can be found in such abundance to the South. More importantly, the film reiterates that the greatest destination any traveler can stumble upon is a place of mercy and redemption. I suggest you cowboy up and watch it.

1 comment:

  1. I saw it awhile back, and enjoyed it. Very thoughtful film.