“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” does not disappoint

February 19, 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a gut-wrenching drama that pulls no punches leaving you walking out the theater in sheer astonishment. The incredible performances by the entire cast, a genius screenplay, and its horrifying realism form an unforgettable film.

Three Billboards follows Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a middle-aged woman that is “public enemy number one” within the confines of small town Ebbing, Missouri. Hayes has gone through traumatized events throughout her recent life, and she takes her anger out towards the Ebbing Police Department. Chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the revered sheriff, and his immature second-in-command Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) are forced to deal with the actions taken by Hayes as well as their own obstacles.

The film begins with Mildred driving by three abandoned billboards owned by Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones), the Ebbing Advertising Company. She storms into Welby’s office with $5,000 to rent out the billboards for a year to call to action the lack of attention brought to her daughter’s rape and murder case. The controversial message becomes the foundation of a series of unfortunate events in Ebbing.

Three Billboards is held upon the legs of the performances, especially by the lead actors. McDormand will dismantle anyone in her way to get the answers she is looking for, and it is amazing to watch. Throughout the first-third of the film Frances McDormand is a nasty woman that, although mourning for the loss of her daughter, has little redeeming qualities. She is hard-nosed, but deep under, her shell is broken. As the plot begins to advance, McDormand’s shell begins to open but her determination does not reduce. By the end of the film, Hayes transformed to a rough but empathetic protagonist. Director Martin McDonagh wrote the character specifically for McDormand, and she played it to perfection.

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Frances McDormand as Midlred in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

As well as McDormand begins magnificent, immature and prejudice cop, Jason Dixon, portrayed by Sam Rockwell, is unbelievable. Much like McDormand, Dixon goes through a large character change. Rockwell is dealt the tough task of creating a racist cop that is so easy to hate, but by the end of the film might be the most beloved of all. Dixon gets extremely aggravated and insulted by the message written on the billboards, and makes it his mission to see Hayes behind bars. Dixon is full of hatred, and the scenes where he takes it out on the townspeople are riveting. Later in the film after his career takes a turn for the worse, Dixon learns a different way of looking at life, and through that, redeems his character’s actions. This was absolutely his career defining performance.

The performances by leads McDormand and Rockwell are marvelous, but as a whole, the cast is incredible. McDormand and Rockwell are both nominated for Academy Awards, in addition to Woody Harrelson for Chief Willoughby. Harrelson puts in one of the best performances of his career. Supporting actors Peter Dinklage (James, a friend of the characters) and Lucas Hedges (McDormand’s disturbed son Robbie) are also great.

Going hand-in-hand with performances is genius screenplay. Writer and director Martin McDonagh brilliantly uses the art of language, or sometimes the lack of, to push forward the plot without making it sound like plain explanation. The actions written for the characters are so great and so emotionally investing, an actor’s best work is required. McDonaugh wrote an intense and emotional roller coaster, and it was brought to screen impeccably.

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The film is a masterpiece, it will go down as one of the greatest films of the twenty-first century. The directing is great, the screenplay is genius, and the performances are beautiful. At heart, Three Billboards explores the darkness of life through a wounded protagonist and broken town, and the character’s journeys to finding the light amongst them. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, and frankly it deserves even more.

Although a fantastic film, it is not made for all ages. Cursing, adult violence, and inappropriate themes take place throughout the film.

To connect to this story, you do not need to be a film savant, but to relate to the dark realities of life and look for the light in it all. I give Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a five out of five stars.

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