The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

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Released 8-Nov-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Tommy Lee Jones, Dwight Yoakam & January Jones
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Making Of-Soundtrack
Interviews-Crew-Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Presentation Of The Film At Cannes
Featurette-The Paris Premiere
Gallery-Poster-Poster Art
Gallery-Production Stills
Trailer-Yesterday; Tsotsi; Moolaade; Ushpizin
Trailer-Shakespeare Behind Bars
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 116:08 (Case: 121)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:01)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tommy Lee Jones
Madman Entertainment
Starring Tommy Lee Jones
Barry Pepper
Julio Cedillo
Dwight Yoakam
January Jones
Melissa Leo
Levon Helm
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Marco Beltrami

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada has been packaged for DVD both here and in Region 2 as simply Three Burials. Directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, the film has a non-linear narrative and is split into four distinct parts; the first burial, the second burial, the journey and the third burial, which makes the film's finale.

    Situated in a town adjacent to the United States-Mexican border, a newly appointed border patrolman, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper), takes his new position as an opportunity to put the boot into some illegal aliens rather than to serve and protect. His supervisor senses that Mike needs guidance and warns him specifically against being heavy-handed with the potential border jumpers.

    Mike's wife Lou Ann (January Jones) has followed him to the backwater town and is finding life very boring, spending much of her time in the local diner, eventually befriending local waitress Rachel (Melissa Leo). The pair share a commonality in their boredom and Rachel introduces Lou Ann to some less than desirable hobbies.

    Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cesar Cedillo), an illegal immigrant, was formerly a farmhand working under ranch foreman Pete (Tommy Lee Jones). The pair had become especially good friends in their short time together, so when Melquiades' body is found partially decomposed, having been shot under dubious circumstances, Pete is understandably upset. Pete's sadness turns to a quiet rage when he hears that his friend has been buried without his involvement, so he sets out to find the culprit with the aim of returning Melquiades to his hometown for a proper burial.

    Written by Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), Three Burials is a film rich with mate-ship and loyalty. It has all the elements needed to make it a bona-fide classic; incredible performances, inspiringly beautiful direction, fascinating dialogue and a score that is as haunting as it is innovative. This is one of my most favourite films in recent years.

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Transfer Quality


    The film has been transferred to DVD in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement.

    The overall image is sharp and pleasant to view on a big screen. Some scenes show a little unnatural haloing around characters, so I would say that a certain degree of edge enhancement has been applied. It becomes a bit irritating at times, particularly during darker scenes. Having said that, the darker scenes within the film are well presented and exhibit good shadow detail. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer that I could see.

    Three Burials was produced with a very specific colour scheme in mind, as is explained in the accompanying audio commentary. Colour depth is consistent throughout the film and there is absolutely no bleeding or over-saturation to be seen.

    I didn't note any MPEG compression issues at all. Film artefacts never extend beyond a few inconsequential specs of dust and dirt, however I did notice a small scratch on the left of the frame at 105:45. Aside from these, the source is in excellent condition.

    English subtitles are burned into the video stream to translate the occasional passage of Spanish dialogue. The text is white with a black outline and is easy to read.

    Disc one is DVD9 formatted, with the layer transition placed ideally at a silent fade to black during the feature at 54:01. The second disc (containing bonus material) is DVD5 formatted.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are four soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD in Region 4. The default soundtrack is the film's original English Dolby Digital 5.1, encoded at 448Kb/s. Alternate English soundtracks in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (224Kb/s) and dts (768Kb/s) may be selected from the setup menu or on the fly. The fourth audio option is a commentary featuring the Director Tommy Lee Jones. As I stated above there is a considerable amount of Spanish language in the film however the dominant language is certainly English.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to discern at all times above effects and score. The film's ADR or looping work is seamless and audio sync is perfect.

    I found the surround channel use particularly subtle, in fact I had to increase the volume considerably to be certain there was in fact a signal. I could only make out some slight atmospherics, a little of the soundtrack score and gunshot echoes. The surround options can certainly be described as front heavy, with a good spread across the soundstage and plenty of panning.

    In comparing the various audio options, the dts is a clear winner. Although it has been mastered at a considerably lower volume, the dts soundtrack serves the depth of the score infinitely better. The Dolby 5.1 default is perfectly good, but I recommend you take the time to switch over to the dts if your system is capable. The Dolby Digital stereo option has been mastered at the same volume as the 5.1 and has good depth in the passages that I sampled however it is a waste of disc space in my opinion.

    The score by Marco Beltrami is outstanding in every respect. Innovative, melodic and emotionally stirring, yet still reminiscent of such greats as Ennio Morricone. Switch to the dts audio and play it loud!

    The LFE channel is used to augment gunshots and the like, but is otherwise quiet for most of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The main menu and scene selection menu pages are nicely animated and the main menu features a lengthy clip from the film's superb score. Menu pages are16x9 enhanced, however none of the featurettes are.

Audio Commentary- Tommy Lee Jones (Actor/Director), Dwight Yoakam (Actor) and January Jones (Actress)

    These three actors get along very well, discussing the many screenplay drafts and Tommy's specific attention to colour and movement. Tommy Lee Jones also points out scenes that utilise his cattle and areas of his own ranch in Texas. There are also some great anecdotes, such as one relating to the soundtrack mixing sessions at Luc Besson's secluded French château. There are some lengthy pauses but this is an interesting commentary that is worth sitting through.

Featurette- The Making Of Three Burials (14:11)

    This brief Making Of shows us scenes from the film and cast interviews which is spread out by footage captured on the set during filming. There are some interesting and humorous moments but this is an otherwise shallow effort.

Featurette- The Making Of The Soundtrack (7:53)

    With burnt-in French subtitles throughout, Tommy Lee Jones discusses his choices of popular songs for the film's soundtrack and how he came to find Marco Beltrami. I was surprised to learn that Marco was an apprentice of Ennio Morricone and up until this project had concentrated mostly on horror films. Marco introduces us to an assortment of strange percussive instruments he used and also explains how he and Tommy Lee collaborated to make the music fit the film's strict flow.

Interview- Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (20:38)

    Again with burnt-in French subtitles, Guillermo talks candidly in English about the events that inspired his story and shares some of his personal beliefs which prove to be quite interesting. Although the story seems a little disjointed in its final form, Guillermo explains his intentions so that the format and flow make complete sense. This is one of the most worthwhile pieces on the second disc.

Deleted Scenes (18:00)

    There are seven scenes in total and there are no English subtitles provided. This is a problem because there are some lengthy passages of Spanish dialogue present. These additional scenes are book ended by familiar scenes from the film to show their placement in the final cut. There are a few nasty analogue videotape hiccoughs, and most of these scenes amount to unnecessary padding that is not missed in the final cut in my opinion.

Featurette- Cannes Presentation (14:58)

    After a press gathering which is shot very artistically (read frustratingly) with no audible conversation we see the cast posing for photographers, walking the red carpet, attending the screening and receiving awards. Nothing surprising really! Tommy's reaction to the film's fifteen minute standing ovation is cool, though I doubt I'll ever sit through this piece again.

Featurette- Paris Premiere (7:47)

    Tommy and Guillermo attend the Paris premiere and field a few questions while on stage, despite their limited knowledge of the French language.

Gallery- Poster Art (1:15)

    Some short pans across various posters, most of which are French. The video is backed by an audio clip taken from the film's theme music.

Gallery- Production Stills (3:04)

    Similar to the above, these are zooms and pans of various stills from film and behind the scenes shots accompanied by background music from the film.

Madman Trailers (5)

    Additional trailers are included for the films Yesterday, Tsotsi, Moolaade, Ushpizin and Shakespeare Behind Bars.

Reversible Cover Slick

    The opposite side of the slick has entirely different artwork, void of any ratings logos. It looks almost good enough to frame!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 NTSC release (also coded for Region 4) is a dual-ratio disc, with both widescreen and pan & scan versions of the film crammed onto one DVD9 disc. Add NTSC formatting to this, and one would have to question the picture quality of such a presentation. Their only audio option is Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), in addition to the commentary. There are no other extras. The small scratch (film artefact) I mentioned in our transfer is also present in the Region 1 NTSC transfer, which indicates they are derived from the same source.

    The Region 2 UK disc omits the dts audio in favour of a single disc while the French Region 2 release includes dts audio and an additional French soundtrack.

    The transfers seem comparable, so I think the local package might be the way to go.


    Three Burials is an outstanding film, one that will reward multiple viewings.

    The video transfer is great, but suffers from noticeable edge enhancement.

    The audio transfer is good, but the rear channels don't seem to be as active as they should.

    The extras are a mixed bag, but this is an overall great package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (via Denon Link 3)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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Comments (Add)
Great movie -
subtitles - penguin (there is no bio) REPLY POSTED