Driving past three empty billboards outside her town, Mildred Hayes has had enough. Marching into the local advertising bureau she decides to rent them for a year. The next day the billboards carry three simple messages: “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests”, and “How come, Chief Willoughby?” In doing so and by shaming the local police for not solving the crime of her daughter’s murder, Mildred Hayes exposes much more than she could have ever imagined.
In this darkly comic drama, ‘In Bruges’ director Martin McDonagh continues to plough his fertile furrow of unapologetically acerbic satire that he has now made his own. Like ‘Seven Psychopaths’ before this, McDonagh’s latest characters are again straight talkers who cut through the bullshit of the world they see around them.
In terms of acting Frances McDormand delivers a fantastic performance, making her Mildred Hayes into an enjoyably abrasive heroine. However she is not alone. With her are Woody Harrelson, who as Sheriff Bill Willoughby stretches his gruff charm into more, surprisingly tender areas. Added to this, in a role that reminds you just what a great actor he is, Sam Rockwell plays junior police officer Jason Dixon. A damp firework of a man who is slow on the pick-up and bushwhacked by both the town and the domineering mother he lives with, his performance very nearly threatens to steal the show from everybody else before the film’s end.
…a dark oil slick of comic tragedy.
In a story that is laced with subtle clues, McDonagh’s film, like his characters never advertises what’s coming next round the corner. With a genuinely absorbing, corkscrew-like plot ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ becomes a dark oil slick of comic tragedy that ensnares all of its wonderfully fleshed-out characters either by their good intentions or guilty secrets.
Whilst not directly inspired or copying the Coen brothers’ earlier films, ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is a similarily dark and delicious masterpiece that will remind you of their very best work. It won’t be by its manner or its characters, but by how the film’s story catches your breath with a plot that you never want to end or characters that you hope never leave you.