Flick : Guest Take – The 3 Burials Of Melquiades Estrada
There’s more to music with my fellow travelers and J at Vinyl Daft Dad proves that. He has taken time out of his busy life to do a guest take on an absolute fantastic film. Reading the take has me inline for a re-watch. So I hand the projector over to J as he runs a great flick. Warning. He’ll have you searching for or re-watching ‘The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada’. Thanks again J for spreading the word on ‘3 Burials’. Good job. See ya at the Burials.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is one of those movies that comes along every now and then and demands that you pay attention to what’s happening. To focus on the goings on… the interplay between the various characters and what they’re saying to each other. This isn’t one to sit down to if you’ve had a bit of a day – forget it (reach for Happy Gilmore if that’s the case). It’s also not one to get confused with Four Weddings and A Funeral. There is no Hugh Grant here and there are no weddings.
Instead, what we have is a Peckinpah flick written by McCarthy, but from the pen of Guillermo Arriaga and directed by one grizzled Tommy Lee Jones. And old Tommy Lee is perfect as Pete Perkins; a cattle rancher who forms a bond with his employee, Melquaides. It’s brilliant watching the two and their exchanges. Like how we made pals when we were kids, I guess. That awkwardness… those first steps to making pals that weren’t our immediate family and forming an unwavering loyalty.
That loyalty is a huge part of the movie. See, as the title suggests, Melquaides dies; killed by a right mean spirited and “beyond redemption” Border Patrol agent (Barry Pepper). The sheriff (Dwight Yoakam) isn’t all that fussed cause, well, Melquiades is an immigrant. An illegal one at that. From Mexico. So it’s all just a bit of an inconvenience to them. Like spilt milk. Or beer.
I love Tommy Lee here. These kind of characters fit him. Or he fits them. It’s how he pursues justice for Melquiades that elevates this one from fine flick to damn fine flick. It’s poetic, yet, at first glance, seems absolutely bonkers.
Barry Pepper is brilliant too as the horrible Border Patrol Agent who doesn’t appear to have boundaries. He’s a horrible bastard and I was wondering from the start how this would pan out for him, but I couldn’t have imagined the road trip he and Pete would take when, eh, Pete kidnaps him and takes him to dig up his friend so he can be buried at home.
On their way to the village they encounter some broken landscapes and incredible people and they learn a lot about who they are, what makes a man, and what makes them tick. I don’t want to say too much else, cause that would spoil the soup, but everything’s connected and the journey that Pete’s on is really quite something. The ending… that realization…
Anyhoo, this is a classic western for the modern times. It’s tense. Loads of lingering shots and telling dialogue. It’s as much a study of the mundane yet tense day-to-day of this border town USA and the roles and prejudices of the occupants, as much as it is about those burials of Melquaides.
I guess when you strip back the layers, you can see that that each of the men here (Melquaides, Pete and Agent Norton) represent the changing values of the people who occupy those border towns and the ending being the struggle to grasp onto your ideals in such a climate.
But then, what do I know? I don’t live in a border town USA.
At the very least, this is just exceptional filmmaking.