Updated: Oct 15, 2018
Directed by Martin McDonagh
Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Hedges, and Amanda Warren
Film Review by Niall Maggs
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri tells the story of Mildred (Frances McDormand) who sets up three billboards, questioning the police as to why they haven’t captured the culprit of her daughter's murder. Things take a turn when Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) gets involved, and the townsfolk turn against Mildred and her methods of getting answers.
Frances McDormand is incredible in the lead role, and truly deserves the praise she is getting (like everything in this fantastic crime drama, the praise is most definitely earned). Her character has been through hell, and McDormand portrays this perfectly. She brings the character to life in every scene she’s in, and steals the show completely. The character wasn’t a stereotype or cliché, she was very unique and interesting. Her determination is also quite inspiring. The citizens of the town hate her, the police also are strongly against her; even the priest disagrees with her! But she carries on going to get to the bottom of the mystery, no matter what happens to her, even if her life is at risk.
Woody Harrelson as the lead male is also magnificent. His character arc is very captivating, and even though he can come off as despicable at parts, we learn that he really is a nice guy who just loves his family. He gives a very realistic performance, and one that will be remembered for a very long time. The chief also had quite a complex personality, and it suggests he has also had a hard life, like Mildred, and the way Harrelson portrays this is exceptional.
The plot and narrative is very unique and like nothing we have seen before; because of this, you stay absolutely invested throughout. Although it seems implausible, it manages to remain thought-provoking and interesting. The setting worked really well with the narrative as it’s just a small town, and not on a large scale. Because of this, you really get to know the characters thoroughly because they’re all equally explored in a tight, compact environment. The payoff is then much more effective and the audience can resonate with the characters. There are only five main roles in the film that serve significance; you really learn about each of their pasts and what part they have in the story, so there aren’t any moments in the film where you feel confused or asking ‘who’s that?’.
McDonagh’s direction is flawless and the pace is beyond perfect. The story building is quite slow and there is a lack of action, but this works excellently for what it’s trying to do: tell the story of a mum who’s desperate to find the murderer of her daughter. The overall storytelling is methodical, simple and straightforward, but along the way it examines each of the characters extensively, so your constantly invested and there are no sections which feel boring. The conflict between Mildred and the citizens is explored interestingly, and is captivating from start to finish. The way McDonagh chose to tell this dynamic is expertly done.
I noticed an underlying theme of redemption as well. The characters development is very satisfying and they change their ways for the better, redeeming all of their bad past actions, which makes the climax have a better payoff. The dark comedy is also a theme which is done fantastically. In a film which has such a dark storyline, it manages to balance the humour and the emotion. Some poignant and sad parts are followed up by a comedic scene, which in a lot of films really wouldn’t work and the shift of tone would feel out of place, but in Three Billboards it fits like a glove.
The script and writing by McDonagh is yet another strong point, in a film which has lots! The screenplay is very witty at parts and is plain hilarious in some scenes. The interactions between the characters work well because It has a very strong script to back it up.
The ending is very optimistic and can be frustrating come to think of it, which is the only downside of the film, but for me it worked really well and it was the perfect way to finish off a fantastic film.
Overall, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is beyond brilliant and deserves its never-ending praise. The performances are some of the best I’ve ever seen and the script is expertly written. The pace is exceptional. The plot is interesting. The direction is flawless. Nothing less than a masterpiece…