Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Review
Writer and Director, Martin McDonagh, hasn’t done many films, with his CV only consisting of two before the release of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. His first film, In Bruges, is one of my favorite films ever. The blend of comedy and sadness is borderline genius. There isn’t many films that can make you cry in laughter and in sadness, yet somehow McDonagh manages to find a way. His second film is Seven Psychopaths, starring two of Three Billboards’ main actors, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. This film may not be one of my favourites, but I still hold it in high regard, as it captures what I love about In Bruges, whilst still feels different. So with McDonagh’s two films being ones I really enjoyed, I was really excited about seeing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand, who plays Mildred, a mother whose daughter is brutally raped and murdered by a man the cops are unable to find, due to the lack of evidence. With Mildred unable to accept that her daughter’s killer is just out there, free, she hires three forgotten-about-billboards and puts 3 different messages on them calling out the local police department and more precisely, the chief of that precinct, Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson. These billboards start to become the talk of this small town and create a lot of hassle for Mildred, but she keeps them up so that the awareness of what happened to her family causes the killer to be found and for the police to not give up so easily, like she believes they did.
Being a big fan of McDonagh’s previous work, and the template he seems to stick to, I felt like I knew what to expect from Three Billboards, but I was wrong, and at first this made me feel like I didn’t really like it. I wanted to relive what I enjoyed about In Bruges, as we rarely get a film by McDonagh. I felt even though the characters had great depth, especially Willoughby's right-hand man, Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell, nothing really happened, except from a lot of pain for these characters. I was hoping for there to be a bit more.
After going to sleep feeling a little disappointed, I woke up thinking about Three Billboards, and continued thinking about it all day. It really sat with me, making me realise that even though I felt it missed the mark in some areas, the film was made to not be as expected, and once I got my head around that fact, I started to really see the reasoning behind some of the decisions round the characters, making me look forward to seeing the film again. Not because I felt the overall story was the best I’ve ever seen, but because the story for each individual character was so rich and complicated, and was portrayed beautifully on screen by these incredible actors.
The one thing that stayed the same as McDonagh’s other films was his use of composer Carter Burwell. Burwell has a great mystery in his music, making each scene feel very emotive, yet also somewhat creepy, in a certain sense. This style is clear in In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths and also in Three Billboards, which pleased me to hear, as even though the film was different to what I am used to from McDonagh, the score still made it feel like his movie.
If a film was ever a grower, it is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It is a beautiful film that really does shake up expectation. All the actors in this film deserve to win at the Oscars and I, for one, will be rooting for them. Even though Three Billboards is a film that is, in my opinion, not as good as Seven Psychopaths, and certainly not on the same level as the masterpiece that is In Bruges, it is still a work of art that I would highly recommend.