Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017.
Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh.
Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Samara Weaving, Caleb Landry Jones, and Lucas Hedges.
A mother challenges the local authorities to solver her daughter’s murder after they fail to catch the culprit.
Anger is an energy.
Everyone seems to be angry at something these days, and they make sure everyone else pays for that anger. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri shows how anger can destroy everything and everyone around us until the only thing left is that anger.
Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is seriously pissed off. Seven months have passed since the rape and murder of her teenage daughter. Not a single person has been arrested for the crime, so Mildred takes the matter into her own hands and puts up three billboards to remind the public of her lack of resolution. The opening scene makes you think this is another crime mystery where we obviously fall for the poor victim who is only out for justice, while everyone else must be a terrible person who’s just in the way of our protagonist until they magically start noticing clues they missed earlier until they out of the blue capture the real killer.
Thankfully, this isn’t that kind of movie. Martin McDonagh gives us a pitch-black comedy where there are no heroes or villains. Anger is a disease that destroys everything, and the only cure is empathy, which isn’t in abundance these days. Our main character starts off as a victim seemingly doing something noble in search of some justice, after she has been let down by everyone else. We start by feeling anger towards the town’s police since they are the ones that never caught the killer.
Suddenly we start seeing things differently. The town’s chief, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is shown to be a good man. A family man. A man who’s truly doing the absolute best he can to solve the case, but whose hands are tied because there is no evidence linking anyone in town to the crime. The more we start sympathizing with the people we thought to be monsters, the more monstrous Mildred becomes, both in the horrible things she starts doing out of anger and spite, and in the way she treats the only people who are on her side. Truly, the only pure villain in this film is the town itself, with citizens that spark that anger in Mildred and in the police, who seem more concern with the way she protests than the what she’s protesting about.
Frances McDormand delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the multi-layered bullheaded mother that expresses as much pain and suffering through her mountains of insults as she does through her moments of vulnerability when she’s alone. Equally Oscar-worthy is Sam Rockwell as deputy Jason Dixon, who goes from being barely a punchline, to a complete monster, to showing the slightest hints of redemption.
Ben Davis does an excellent job as director of photography, complementing the performances while never overwhelming. The score by Carter Burwell come sin at just the right times, but what impressed by was the way Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri uses silence to compliment the story, instead of filling those moments with unnecessary music or dialogue.
In the end, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri lives or dies by its script, and thankfully McDonagh has crafted a powerful story with incredible dialogue that’s as entertaining as it is savagely brutal and violent. A movie that perfectly reflects our times, both in our current problems as in possible steps towards a solution.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★