Review – Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

by Kevin Muller

Sit back and buckle up for the wildest ride of the year. Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri is a masterpiece and the writer/director’s best film to date. This is a film with balls that isn’t afraid to offend, while providing us with a story that is as hilarious as it is profound, this one is a true winner.

It has been too much damn time for Mildred, an amazing Frances MacDormand, since the gruesome death of her young teenage daughter, who was raped and burned to death a few months before the film begins. It doesn’t help that the last time they saw each other they had a typical mother/daughter fight that concluded with things said that both did not mean. The police haven’t made any progression on the case that seems to be the afterthought. In an act with desperation and rebellion, Mildred purchases three vacant billboards that sit outside of town. On them, she asks the police, specifically Willoughby, who is perfectly played by Woody Harrelson, why it is taking so damn long to solve the case? While Willoughby is bothered by it, it is a younger, and troubled, officer at his department, Dixon, who really takes it to heart.  Dixon is played with such ferocity by Sam Rockwell. He is a simple minded man, who is the last person who should be an officer of the law. Mildred’s bold move acts as a catalyst, for not only the movie’s plot, but the spirit of the town. Everyone tries to fight her, but she refuses to give up.

Martin McDonagh , who broke out into the movie scene with 2008’s, In Burges seems to guide this monster with ease. The dialogue switches between heartfelt and hilarious and the direction is just spot on perfect. The film moves at such a fantastic pace too where it never gets too funny, nor too serious. It is also one that is as incredibly unpredictable as its characters. You may have an idea where the story may go, but it takes so many twists and turns to keep it fresh and interesting. All these characters are also fully realized people. Characters you may hate in the beginning start to become reasonable people by the end of the story and vice-versa. A character like Mildred is usually written as a pure hero type character for the audience to cheer on. People love someone who rebels against authority, especially law enforcement. It is fun to see antics, that you would usually never dream of doing, being played up for drama and laughs, but not here though. That isn’t to say that Mildred isn’t a beautifully written character, but McDonagh is careful not to make her a golden child. Through the course of the story, Mildred is seen through many different shades. By the end of the movie, it may not be unusual for some viewers to not agree what she is fully doing.

It should come as no surprise that McDormand is absolutely phenomenal as the lead character. It is a bold performance that doesn’t rely on the audience liking the character. What may seem like a negative works in favor for the actress. She is at free will to do or say anything to show how fierce and serious she is about her mission. Believe me, some of the things that happen will make you laugh. The actress is careful not to make Mildred an overly rebellious character either and there are moments of quietness and drama that she does well too. A specific scene, involving a deer, is one where her hard shell is taken off and you really see how emotionally hurt and destroyed she feels. Of course, she can never let that be seen.   The performance that really sticks out is Sam Rockwell. Those of you who are familiar with his performance in 1999’s The Green Mile will automatically recognize similar traits with what he gives us here and what he gave us then. The only difference is that the character grows past the consistent racist tirades that made his character so vile in the 1999 film. As with Mildred, the way you feel about the character at the start will differ how you feel about him at the end. Rockwell has no problem guiding us through the events of this character. It is the actor’s best performance, and personally, I feel the best supporting performance I have seen all year. I really hope Sam Rockwell finally gets a well-deserved Oscar for his riveting performance in this film. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a film full of life and energy.  It is unapologetic about what it is and thats so refreshing in a cinematic world where most films, especially these kinds, play it safe. It is smart, relevant, shocking, thoughtful, and one hell of a ride. In my opinion, this is one of the best films of the year! 

I am giving Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a 5 out of 5 Hairpieces!


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