The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) * Hidden Gem *
Starring: Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan; 25th Hour), Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black; The Fugitive)
Directed By: Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut
Overview: A rancher takes it into his own hands to honour the wishes of a dead man and bring him back to his Mexican village for burial, with the help of his killer.
Acting: Tommy Lee Jones (Batman's 'Two-Face' aside) and Barry Pepper are two actors that I've always appreciated. You may not be a fan of Tommy, but his role here is quite astounding. Slow and calculating, not a man of many words, his actions along this voyage are those of a man nobler than himself, and he takes a quiet pride in the fact that he's elevating himself by risking his freedom for a friend. All his supporting cast is spectacular.
Cinematography: There are some panoramic scenes, shot to be art for art's sake, which is nice, but I much preferred the interaction between characters. Lazy diner conversations with a line of cigarette smoke drifting up, awkward chats by the fireside with a dead man's ant-covered face staring on, or lunch with a blind man in his rustic abode. Much effort was put into the look, and it's well appreciated.
Script: This was written by Guillermo Arriaga. You most likely won't recognize him unless you're truly into cinema. With such films under his belt as Amores Perros and 21 Grams, he's a well known enough guy, while still being somewhat in the esoteric category. Why that's the case I can only presume, but I'm guessing it's because 'good' and 'mainstream' are different words. This piece of writing is intelligent and character-development driven, and best of all, he doesn't have his characters speaking just to fill dead air.
Plot: The story that unfolds is one of justice, and as we learn just enough of the people in the lives of our two travelers to give them proper depth, we also learn of the guilt, fear and duty that our anti-heroes face along their way. With such scenes that add import to the quest our characters are on by their very hopelessness and sad truths, this film reinforces the need of integrity and honour so well that we know this trip will have a deep impact on the lives of these men.
Mood: The distracting and almost negatively impacting rapid-fire style of editing of 21 Grams is still present in the beginning of this one too, but in no way is it anywhere as disruptive. This film drifts to an almost dark comedy style that is rather strange from time to time since the characters are quite serious, but rather than constantly dwelling on conscience, retribution, sin and redemption, the manner in which this story is told is refreshing. The moral lesson is just heavy enough without getting preachy. Terrific, and great music too.
Overall Rating: 84% (Dead Ringer For A Good Film)
Aftertaste: This is a film that will not become too popular. It's one of those movies that goes under the radar and seems to stay there, seen only by the fans of the actors or the writer. Guillermo Arriaga is a man whose career is safe until he sells out, though it seems that he's sticking well to his guns. With producers like Luc Besson involved in this, he's probably doing well for himself. This film is not typical Hollywood, and for that reason, it's to be appreciated. This restores my faith in mainstream film, just a little. They DO still make good movies, however they don't advertise them. I think it's because they know the real fans are already waiting for it. I guess they advertise garbage on TV because the people who watch that crap also like to know about movies that are crap.
Hahaha, "Baywatch Nights".