REVIEWS NO-ONE ASKED FOR
by Ashton Brown
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri written & directed by Martin McDonagh
I am a fan of Martin McDonagh. In Bruges is one of my favourite scripts of all time with exceptional performances from both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Seven Psychopaths was also an exceptional piece of cinema. So I was extremely excited to see his latest (and third feature) film. I was by no means disappointed. McDonagh has certainly established himself as one of the greatest writer/directors of character focused pieces.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is based on the true story of a mother whose daughter is tragically raped and murdered. Months later the police have gone quiet on the case so she takes things in to her own hands to encourage them to prioritise the case by keeping it in the public eye. Mildred (played by the endlessly captivating Frances McDormand) hires three public billboards on a stretch of road in the quiet town reminding the town (and the police) that the crime remains unsolved and that they should be doing more. McDormand is arguably the best I have seen her since Fargo. She portrays Mildred with an understandable level of grief and intensity but never overplays it so we loose track of the anger or the sense of injustice which seems to be the real driving force behind the drama.
The script, as with all of McDonaghs work is as hilarious as it is darkly tragic. He uses extraordinary events to study very real human emotions and interactions. On the surface Three Billboards is a tragic comedy of the blackest kind but at it's heart it is a character study of the human conscious, the resilience and stubbornness of the human will and the tragedy and desperation that comes with loss. It brings into focus the idea that just because we blame someone for something - doesn't necessarily mean they are the villain. We never see anything from one point of view but rather the magnitude of the crime as the horrifying entity it is rather than just the grief of one person. The film doesn't focus on the crime itself but the normal lives affected after such a crime - from the loved ones, to the town, to the law enforcement. We soon realise that everyone is a victim when such atrocities are committed. At no point does the script become preachy or bogged down in over emotional vitriol - it remains blunt, honest and downright confronting throughout.
All the performances are absolutely stunning. Woody Harrelson is perfect as police Chief Willoughby bringing a likability but also a harshness to the role so not only do we empathise with him but we also never lose the sense of understandable frustration that our lady protagonist has towards. This is what the film does so well. We never view a character through a black and white lense - these characters are coloured with a kaleidoscope of characteristics making us question right and wrong, good and bad, hero vs villain. Sam Rockwell continues to be one of the most diverse actors of our generation as the extremely flawed Deputy Dixon. From start to finish his characters journey is grounded, believable, infuriating and heartbreaking.
Three Billboards is nothing short of a masterpiece. It contains an exceptionally well cast and directed ensemble of extremely talented actors, beautiful cinematography which all work in perfect harmony under the well paced direction to bring alive this hilarious, tense and brilliant script. This is of course all accompanied by the perfect soundtrack making this one of my picks for the best films for 2018 - if not the decade.
5 out of 5
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