Every year, after the nominees for the Golden Globes is announced, I go scrounging to source the films that are nominated to watch and review them. And then comes the Oscar and the BAFTA nominations. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is one such film which has made its way into the Golden Globes, BAFTA and the Oscar nominations in 2018. And has also bagget the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama. Should give you a sense ofthe kind of film it is.
Anger is an energy in Martin McDonagh’s brilliant Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, one of the best films of the year. Written & Directed by Martin McDonagh, this Southern American with an Irish attitude”, like a lot of his work, recalls Flannery O’Connor in tone (the O’Connor quote “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it” could be this movie’s tagline), anger is not treated like something to be cured.
It starts with three battered billboards on a road outside of Ebbing, Missouri that nobody drives down anymore. Though it actually began seven months prior when Mildred Hayes’ daughter was raped and burned and left for dead on the side of the road. As the beginning, you think you know where things are going. Frances McDormand stars as Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother who wages war on her local police department after their investigation into her teenage daughter’s rape and murder putters to a halt.
On her way driving down that road, she spots three barren billboards which sparks in her a plan to wake up the police department about her daughter’s case investigation. When we see her laying down $5,000 to rent the billboards for a month, she’s warrior-like in navy overalls and a bandana pulled tight across her forehead; her face, voice, her entire being rendered raw by her desperate thirst for justice. Her messages are soon writ large in 20-foot type: “Raped while dying”, “Still no arrests” and finally, “How come, Chief Willoughby?”
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is the kind of film that is funny, brutal and breathtakingly beautiful. No one does angry better than Frances McDormand, who does her best film work here since “Fargo” as Mildred Hayes. Cheif Willoughby (played with pained tenderness by Harrelson) is the local police chief, and the man she holds responsible for the lack of justice, though it’s not a burden he alone carries.
With the billboards, Mildred sets the stage for a battle of wills on a Godzilla-versus-King Kong scale, and the film obligingly plays along at first. Mildred, with firm belief on her straightforward quest, wants justice and/or revenge and is prepared to burn down the entire town in pursuit of both. And Willoughby, a family man with an iron will and an allergy to stupidity, is a worthy rival. Alongside the two giants, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, also stars Sam Rockwell as the local cop Dixon, a racist with a low IQ and disregard for civil rights.
I’m going with 4½/5 for Martin McDonagh’s brilliant Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. A film continues to shock, stun and surprise until its very final moments, and even then touch your heart to the core.