Gay cowboy movies dominated 2005, yet it was "Brokeback Mountain" that got all the glory. While Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are up for Academy Awards, Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper and Julio Cedillo are nowhere to be found - and that's a three-way relationship!
Okay, so "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" has nothing to do with homosexuality, nor is it even remotely similar to "Brokeback Mountain" in any way, but it caught your attention, didn't it? How about this: "Three Burials" is a better movie than the Oscar-nominated film.
Directed by Jones (I wish I could call him Tommy Lee but then I would be talking about a completely different person, wouldn't I?), "Three Burials" follows a loner cowboy (Jones) who becomes upset after his illegal immigrant friend Melquiades Estrada (Cedillo) is found shot to death in the Texas desert. There is no official investigation, which leads Pete to do take things into his own hands - he kidnaps the accidental shooter (Pepper) and takes him on a journey with his decaying friend to get Estrada's body back home to his wife and family in Mexico. See, it's just like "Brokeback" - an emotional journey of three men in the rugged frontier of Texas. Don't you see? Never mind...
Jones is terrific in the lead, but it is his mastery behind the camera that really stands out. "Three Burials" looks terrific, and aside from feeling just a tiny bit long at the end, is well-paced. The story, written by Guillermo Arriaga, is quirky and humorous yet at times dark and serious. The movie handles the stories of several different characters effectively, making an interesting character drama out of a film you wouldn't expect such a thing from.
It's hard to explain just what "Three Burials" is like. The first half of the film is noticeably lighter than the latter half, as the screenplay is stuffed with subtle yet hilarious moments. Things get more serious in the second half.
"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" is a terrific drama-comedy-cowboy-adventure film that highlights the directorial debut of Jones. All around this is one of the best movies of 2005.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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