Tommy Lee Jones has a long history as an actor. On screen he's appeared in over 80 productions in film and television. This is of great importance as over this nearly 50 year period, Jones has become one of the most solid actors who is capable of turning in a great performance one after another. Thus his ability to get solid performances out of his actors was his strongsuit in this picture as we see strong work from the entire cast and also a stellar performance by Jones as well. It's important to note that this is Jones' second time director, the first being a made for TV movie The Good Old Boys in 1995. We can see that being able to go from behind the camera to in front of it on the same set can be difficult but Jones performs both duties like the pro that he is.
It's important to note Jones performed in Sam Shepard's True West. I make mention of this as Shepard is a man who's themes are all about the old west meeting the new world. We can see that Jones has had decades of experience to extrapolate from that experience as well as the realities of life that he drew from with the killing of Esequiel Hernandez Jr. by U.S. Marines during a military operation on the U.S.-Mexico border. He was able to take themes that still very much affect our society today and implement them into a story structured from William Faulkner's plotline from As I Lay Dying.
Jones also uses the land to his advantage and we see it in the two windo shot with the sun settting as Rachel coms to tell him Norton is Melquiades' killer. We also see the overexposed nature of the sun once he kidnaps Norton to go to Mexico with him. He was able to use the brightness to his advantage in creating a visual environment that feels very hard to manage for both Norton and the audience. Lastly, Jones paces the film quite well allowing the room for moments to breath and by so doing he captures the inner life of the characters rather than relying on action to fill in the gaps for the audience.