Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Film Review
Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek
Director: Martin McDonagh
Revelling in the kind of dark and comedic touches that were in 2008's In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a tale for our times, and a reflection on the world we live in.
McDormand stars as Mildred, the emotionally battered and destroyed mother of a girl killed in her small town.
With justice having eluded her seven months later and fearing her daughter's case is going unnoticed by the police as time goes by, Mildred deploys a triumvirate of provocative billboards, aimed at keeping the unsolved murder at the front of everyone's mind.
Naming and shaming the local police chief (played with mournful touches by Harrelson), Mildred finds herself in opposition with the town and in the line of the racist drunk sheriff Dixon (a brilliant Rockwell, playing fast, dastardly and loose, yet surprisingly engaging and emotional).
It's hard to give more away of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as part of the satisfaction of McDonagh's film is in the journey and the devilish edges of the dialogue.
Whilst there are a few frustrations here and there (from the film's resolution to a few scenes such as the disrespecting of a Catholic priest for no reason other than to launch a diatribe), there is a lot to perversely revel and reflect on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Chiefly, it's the triumvirate of performances from McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell that hit a series of dizzying highs.
McDormand manages to tread a fine line between perseverance, bringing heartbreak and hard resolve to Mildred. There's never any doubt that you're on your side, and McDormand delivers a controlled pitch perfect performance that aches with loss, and teeters on extreme sadness. Harrelson and Rockwell surprise too, particularly as their law enforcement attitudes are as poles apart as you could expect.
However, Rockwell's racist drunkard, wrapped up in his momma's boy hillbilly outlook and his Archie comics, proves to be the film's surprising emotional touchstone for reasons that would spoil too much here.
In many ways, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deals with a lot of issues currently around - a sexual predator and murderer who appears to be above the law, the inherent seething racist underbelly in the police and the innocent wronged and left hanging outside of a justice system which appears to be skewed in favour of the criminals.
And yet, deep within Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and its penchant for potty-mouth moments, there's a lot of humanity and love on show; of people coming together when divides seem too immense and of the one thing that unites us all - sadness.
McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is being touted for awards, and while parts of its heart are black beyond recognition, thanks to McDormand and Rockwell's powerfully compelling performances, this at times jaw-dropping spectacle has all the compulsion you'd need to be carried along on the darkest of rides.