I have adored Tommy Lee Jones ever since he won my heart playing a prison administrator in Natural Born Killers. I enjoy the stories he tells through his roles. His compassion shines through no matter how twisted the scene. He is both lead actor and director of this film. He plays Pete Perkins, a sad and lonely man. Pete still lives by the old code of the West. He keeps his promises, and a friend is a friend forever.
Barry Pepper plays Mike, an emotionally detached and brutal Border Patrol agent relocated to Texas. The guy he needlessly kills is Pete's best buddy, a cowboy with a family back in Mexico. Pete had promised Melquiades that if he died in the US, Pete would return him to be buried in his hometown in Mexico. The US in the film is seen as prefab homes, a fat lady with a dog, the mall, billboards, highpowered firearms, fancy four wheel drives, and ubiquitous TELEVISION sets spewing incessant mindless junk. No wonter Melquiades wanted to go home. The journey on horseback is gorgeous and the lessons come fast and furious for Mike. Coincidences bring beautiful poetic justice. This story is more about tough love than vengeance, more about compassion than hate. In the end a man who seemed to be beyond redemption becomes fully human. It's inspiring. Pepper's acting is stellar, good as it gets. See for yourself.
The depth and complexity of the characters makes the film. As in my previous favorite "Crash", every single person is multifaceted. As one reviewer wrote, "nobody is beyond redemption". These characters are do some controversial things, and you could talk all night about what was "right" and "wrong" about it. The beauty is that this film is true to real humanity.
A good bit of the dialog is in Spanish. I remember there being subtitles, but I don't think there were subtitles for all of it. I understood most of it. Anyone living in Arizona is bound to pick some Espanol. Anyone who wants to learn Spanish for travelling in Mexico would do well to study the phrases in this movie.
I fully recommend this movie.