The Three Burials of
In his directorial debut, the lusciously titled The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones finds himself in his native Texas telling a story about the conflicts in the intersection between illegal immigration and heavy border-control. Not surprisingly, it is a story from an exclusively human perspective, told with a deep understanding of both the local state of affairs and far more universal human mechanisms. As such, Jones' directorial job reveals much of the same humanity that we've seen many times in his best acting roles, and his lead performance in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada epitomises exactly that. His Pete Perkins is in many ways a cross between his Woodrow Call from Lonesome Dove and his award winning Ed Tom Bell from the Coen brothers' brilliant No Country For Old Men made two years after this film and set in a similar environment.
Pete Perkins is as brilliantly written and conceived character as these two. He is driven by a fundamental goodness which makes his actions both understandable and perhaps even commendable, but his brutality and vigilante behaviour seem to come from a deep-rooted, almost involuntary perception of righteousness. It's as if his territorial ancestors act through him. Jones incarnates this masterfully, and won the Best Actor award in Cannes for his endeavours.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada moves probingly and elegantly along from contemporary crime story via unorthodox road movie to allegoric existential discussion. The film suggests that it's not severity or revenge that should be the focal point for punishment or questions of guilt, but a sense of human responsibility and compassion. Guillermo Arriaga's profound script is handled in an aptly terrestrial manner by Tommy Lee Jones, and the result is a film for both mind and body.