Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson
A showcase in acting. If you want to see a film that’s driven fantastically by its acting performances go see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Mildred (Frances ‘always so intense’ McDormand) has tragically lost her daughter seven months ago. She was kidnapped, raped and then burned alive. No arrests have been made. No justice given. No closure granted to Mildred, to her son Robbie (Lucas ‘career about to blow up’ Hedges) nor to her ex-husband Charlie (John ‘always so good’ Hawkes). Mildred decides to take matters a little more into her own hands.
Mildred lives in the small town of Ebbing, Missouri. Their law enforcement department still has a bit of a ‘good ole boy’ mentality by a few of their officers. Mildred uses this as an exploitation to help find her daughters murderer. How she goes about it is a bit unique though. “The longer you keep a case in the public eye, the better the chances are of it getting solved” she proclaims. What better way to grab the public eye then to use large billboards on the side of the road? She rents out three consecutive billboards on a small road that heads out of town. Each of them together form a challenge to police department of Ebbing and specifically the Chief of Police to find her daughters killer. Big red billboards with large print saying ‘raped’ and ‘murdered’ will certainly catch a bit of attention, but Mildred decides to add to it and go on the local news as well.
The film takes off in a multitude of storylines that all connect back to the tone of the film. Some of the police officers are portrayed as racist, unintelligent and power arrogant cops. Others are fairly portrayed as upstanding officers who truly are out to help people. Mildred sends a blanket statement about police that turns the majority of the town, who support police, into an uproar. I worried here that the film was going to be about Americans and their anti-cop vs pro-cop stances. Thankfully it does not. The feelings and emotions per individual character are expressed but we are not beaten over the head or tried to be convinced to think one way or the other on the topic.
Mildred is an angry woman with no filter for how she talks or her actions. She’s done playing by the rules of standard society and uses her intelligence to start getting things done. She’s more hilarious than rude in the way that she bluntly speaks her mind and simply points out facts of the obvious.
The supporting cast around her is just as important. Chief Willoughby (Woody ‘I can jump’ Harrelson) is the level headed leader of the town and a very respected and popular one. Sadly he has recently revealed he is quickly dying of cancer. His character has a new bigger picture outlook on life as well as towards the situation that Mildred has put him in. His struggle with pacifying the towns people, appeasing Mildred, finding her daughters killer on a seemingly impossible cold case as well as being a great husband and father is really well portrayed by Harrelson. A strong feeling of empathy may overwhelm you with what the Chief is going through.
The sparkplug character of the film is Officer Dixon (Sam ‘the most underrated actor in Hollywood’ Rockwell). In trouble often for being short fused and possibly racist; Dixon shoots his mouth off first, then his gun, then his mouth again before thinking. Coming from a low income home and the other side of the tracks; Dixon has an attitude towards people, races and the opposite gender that doesn’t play well anymore in 2017.
These three main characters along with Mildreds family, the townspeople and a few shady outsiders construct the story of this film. Mildreds unwavering mission to force the police to find her daughters killer provides the true heart of the film. The police and their attempt to re-open a case, as well as keeping Mildred safe and the town happy while remaining politically correct shows the struggle cops go through. The film plays like a dark comedy and actually provides far more humor than expected.
In a couple of months when you’re filling out your Oscar ballots be sure to check off Rockwell for Best Supporting Actor. That’s a done deal. The film itself will be nominated for Best Picture and McDormand will be the heavy favorite for Best Actress. These things I know because this film and its performances are simply that good.
I’ll say no more because this is a film you need to see. It’s funny and emotional and serious all bundled together in one unique drama. There’s a couple nit-picky plot holes you can reach for and find, plus I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. But! If you have one film left to see in 2017 make sure it’s Three Billboards. You won’t be disappointed.
If you have seen this film and want to chat more: tweet me @BrianStever
9 out of 10