A pitch-black comedy with cynicism and heart, Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is one of the most entertaining films of 2017 — for viewers with a tolerance for profanity and violence.
“Three Billboards” centers around the grieving Mildred Hayes who paints three billboards near the fictional town of Ebbing, Missouri, antagonizing Ebbing’s police when they are unable to find her daughter’s murderer. The situation becomes increasingly violent, messy and darkly comedic as conflict simmers between Hayes, local authorities and her own community.
McDonagh’s “Three Billboards” is a near-perfect black comedy. Wildly unpredictable and occasionally hilarious, the film shouldn’t disappoint fans of the genre.
The characters in “Three Billboards” converse with an exaggerated, brutal honesty that leaves viewers breathless.
McDonagh’s writing lends tremendous humanity to the morally flawed characters, while also bringing attention to the cyclical nature of violence and continued racial tension in contemporary society.
While McDonagh’s blistering dialogue strengthens the film, the main reason to see “Three Billboards” is Frances McDormand’s heart-rending performance. Hayes possesses visible rage and grief concerning her daughter’s death. Her vulgarity, while often darkly humorous, underscores her character’s tragic past. Her three-dimensionality, along with McDormand’s iconic performance, renders Hayes a compelling yet morally complex character.
Woody Harrelson also gives a noteworthy performance as the sympathetic police chief Willoughby, whose frustration with Hayes’ billboards is well-founded. Even more memorable is Sam Rockwell’s racist, amateur cop Dixon. An initially detestable character, Dixon’s surprising character arc belies viewers’ expectations.
Almost every character, no matter how likable, has their own arc and backstory. This depth allows viewers to become fully invested in the increasingly tense proceedings.
Furthermore, the film’s cinematography perfectly captures the tight-knit atmosphere of a small town. Similar to McDonagh’s 2008 film “In Bruges,” most scenes in “Three Billboards” contain palpable suspense. Gruesome acts can occur at any moment, often unforeseen and brutally effective.
For fans of black humor, top-notch acting and heartfelt storylines, “Three Billboards” is an unforgettable viewing experience, among some of the very best films of 2017.
Rating: 5/5 Billboards Outside Kirksville, Missouri