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Movie Review: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Alternate Title: Promises to Keep, And Miles to go Before I Sleep

Story: Yes it is a mouthful of both title and alternate title for this Southwestern vision by first time feature director Tommy Lee Jones and written via the skilful hand of Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros and 21 Grams).

Illegal Mexican, Melquiades Estrada is gunned down by a loose cannon border patrol agent, Mike Norton. His murder is dismissed by the local police but our hero Pete, who had befriended Melquiades, wants to make things right and keep his old promises to Melquiades. Frustrated by the lack of justice he settles for the Old West type and our voyage begins. The journey to bury Melquiades in his home village is physical, emotional and spiritual.

There are small scenes and strong imagery that will stay with you long after you leave the theater. All of the films' characters have depth and each evolves in their own way. It is a powerful story about justice, friendship, promises and redemption.

Acting: Kudos all around to a fine ensemble cast. Tommy Lee Jones as Pete is better than he has been in a long, long time. Barry Pepper, as Norton has the role of a lifetime and will probably typecast him forever. Julio Cedillo is heartwarming as we get to know his character, Melquiades, through flashbacks. Melissa Leo is stunning as waitress Rachel, January Jones as Norton's wife hits the nail on the head and Dwight Yoakum as the sheriff added our comic relief.

Predilection: None.

Critters: Oh my. Most of the critters end up in the food category below. The entire critter cast includes, horses, snakes, bear, coyote, goats, chickens and cattle.

Food: See above.

Soundtrack: Perfect

Visual Art: Director of photography, Chris Menges sets up some visual landscapes that will soothe the eye.

Theater Audience: A handful of riveted movie goers.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 2

Squirm Scale: There are some animals that are killed in the film and that got me very squirmy.

Drift Factor: No drifting by me. But there were lots of drifters in the movie.

Predictability Level: I was not sure what was going to happen. There were lots of small and large surprises.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: It was released late December to be included in the Oscar race but for some reason it did not make the cut.

Big Screen or Rental: The big screen is the way to go for this film. For some of Tommy Lee Jones' other films, try renting: Space Cowboys, Men in Black, Cobb, Natural Born Killers, The Client, The Fugitive, Heaven & Earth, JFK and Love Story.

Length: Two hours.

LOBO HOWLS: 8