Despite the long title, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is anything but a long-winded movie. It gets straight to the point which any well-written script should do. Taking its cue from the Coen Brother’s movies, this work shares many similarities with their films. It also shares a few of its cast including Frances McDormand who once again proves to be an excellent performer. It’s always a pleasure watching a finely crafted film with ‘Three Billboards’ marking its cinematic territory with confidence.
When her daughter is brutally murdered, her mother Mildred (Frances McDormand) goes to pieces. Expecting the police to find the culprit, she patiently waits. After months go by without a result, Mildred takes matters into her own hands. Painting three huge signs, she directs her scorn at the local Chief of Police Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). With his second in command Dixon (Sam Rockwell) on hand, Willoughby tries to placate an irate Mildred. Events escalate between her and the local law enforcement as the chance to catch her daughter’s killer gradually fades.
‘Three Billboards’ makes a virtue of its unpredictability. When you think you know how the story will go, it suddenly takes a sharp turn into the unknown; into a more exciting area. That’s the mark of a finely-tuned script, written by Director Martin McDonagh who also created the great movie In Bruges. Not only does he deliver flawed, interesting characters and crackling dialogue, he effectively creates an atmosphere of foreboding tension over the small town in which they reside. Despite surface appearances, there are no true ‘heroes’ or ‘villains’, just desperate but determined people facing the consequences of their actions.
The performances are first rate with McDormand’s tough as nails character running the gamut of emotions from guilt to rage with Rockwell and others very solid in their roles. ‘Three Billboards’ is more black comedy than serious drama but the performers keep things at an even keel without resorting to melodramatics. The use of flashback and switched time-lines maintains interest and successfully gives the off-kilter feel McDonagh aims for. ‘Three Billboards’ plays with traditional plot narratives and twists character perceptions making it compelling, enabling it to stand out amongst a sea of formulaic dross.
Everyone should be proud to be associated with ‘Three Billboards’ as it has its own unique story-telling edge. That’s difficult to do with thousands of stories out there but its efforts in crafting something different is commendable. Those choosing to move along with its occasionally peculiar techniques will be rewarded a fine viewing experience few can match.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri opens on December 28th.
Check out the official site here.