Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri Review

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Stars: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell

Martin McDonagh brings us a dark horse in the form of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” starring Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, Woody Harrelson as Chief Of Police William Willoughby in a dark comedic drama. Months have passed since the terrible murder of Mildred’s Daughter and there has been no leads, no new information and to date no culprits for the terrible crime. A Mother with no closure and in constant despair decides to make a bold statement to Willoughby and his Force in the form of renting three rundown billboards that haven’t been used since 1986 and leaving controversial messages on them directed at the Chief of Police. Trouble brews in the form of Willoughby’s second in command Officer Dixon played by Sam Rockwell who gets involved and the battle between Mildred and the Police is only exacerbating the situation.

“Three Billboards” of course won four Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actress (Frances McDormand) in a Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Sam Rockwell) in a Motion Picture and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Martin McDonagh) and for me arrived under the radar. Don’t get me wrong I had heard of this picture with the strange name and you could be forgiven for not taking too much notice of this films release. Especially when you realise what the film was up against at these awards.

Frances McDormand is brilliant. It’s as simple as that. Every scene and every line is delivered perfectly by the Academy Award Winning Actress (Best Actress in a Leading Role in Fargo as Marge Gunderson) her portrayal of a tortured soul is all there to see in her performance. You can feel her anguish and frustration in the Police Department and although the subject matter is pretty grim, there is little nuggets of humour in there and McDormand handles these brilliantly, without them being out of place.

When I first knew about this film and the character Woody Harrelson would be playing I assumed he would be an unlikeable guy. On the contrary, Willoughby isn’t your normal two dimensional town sheriff. He has issues in his own life and actually comes across as a decent guy who by the looks of things has exhausted his leads in the murder case and his resources look pretty limited. Harrelson’s portrayal of the character is realistic that although this case is at the top of Mildred Hayes list of priorities, he has other issues in his profession and more importantly with his health that Mildred is unaware of.

This infuriates Officer Dixon in knowing his Boss is seriously unwell and Mildred’s Billboard stunt is the last thing the Chief Of Police needs. Sam Rockwell portrays the character as someone who respects Willoughby and aspires to be one day. Dixon is protective of his senior officer and as the film rolls on you get to see his violent side. I first saw Rockwell in both 1999 films The Green Mile and Galaxy Quest and then again in 2001’s Heist as Jimmy Silk and I have followed his career ever since. His character is full of anger and frustration. This is due to the fact that Dixon is the Sole Carer to his Mother after his Father died and appears bitter to his predicament. I think this is why the character is the way he is with Willoughby. He sees him as a father figure and is constantly looking for his approval.

This film is shot beautifully and with vibrant colours. McDonagh already an Academy Award Winner in 2004 for a Best Short Film in Six Shooter displays his directorial talents again. As far as writing goes, McDonagh again knocks it out the park. The script is solid and when you realise this is the guy who was also nominated in 2008 for Best Screenplay for the film “In Bruges” you can see why. Do I have any issues at all with the film? Well yes, it’s not perfect in the sense of tone at times.

Having spoken to a few people, they have had different experiences with this film from being emotional to finding the film very funny. I get that as the film has all of that but in some scenes (not many) I felt a little unsatisfied in how I was meant to feel and some people I know have felt that way too, but as I said it’s nitpicking and the same can be said for the films final third. Just when you thought we were going to get some closure and resolve for poor Mildred a lead turned out to be a red herring.

One of the more surprising things about the lead comes from none other than Officer Dixon who overheard a conversation between two out of town men bragging about a crime they committed that matches that of Mildred’s Daughter. If anything came out of this, it was how the relationship between the grieving mother and the Dixon actually bettered at the stories climax. Although the two men who committed a crime had nothing to do with Mildred’s Daughter both Dixon and Mildred bonded in the sense they agreed to pay these two men a visit…armed.

Overall I enjoyed the movie and I can see why it got the attention it deserved at the Golden Globes. It remains to be seen how it will fare at the Academy Awards shortly but let’s put it this way there will be a lot more attention on “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” this time and I think it deserves the recognition. Highly Recommended.

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