REVIEW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2018)

Written By: Nigel Asipa
If I can compliment a film with at least 5 adjectives, more than likely it’s etched in my membrane, there to be championed to as many folks as possible who are willing to listen.
Any film worth remembering provokes a mixture of emotions out of you; laughs, cries, interest, shock, awe. And any film that has a strong or unique story with equally unique characters, should resonate with you in a way that’s either self-reflective or empathetic or ideally both.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s latest offering is such a film. Ever since the red band trailer dropped some months ago, I was already psyched. Three Billboards managed the impressive feat of having a range of responses from me, from nervous laughter to unexpectedly crying to consistent intrigue. I was mesmerised by the bold, profane and at times delicate script as we’re given a host of characters that are either unruly or difficult but remained sympathetic and captivating all the same.
We see Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) driving down Drinkwater road one afternoon and she spots three unused billboards that hasn’t been used in many years (a fine little detail we see is one of the billboards says ‘worth stopping for’). She sits fidgeting for a bit, contemplating on what they could be used for. She heads down to the Ebbing advertising company ran by Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) to negotiate the terms on how to advertise and how much it is to advertise the billboards. She intends to use them for at least a year and for what she intends the billboards to say, Red is quickly sympathetic to her cause by saying “you must be Angela Hayes’ mother”.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Angela Hayes is the recently slain daughter of Mildred. Some 7 months prior she was kidnapped, raped and burnt beyond recognition with no new developments on the case. Unsatisfied with this motion, the billboards say the following; RAPED WHILE DYING, STILL NO ARRESTS, HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?. From then on in She wages a one-woman war against the local police department by calling them for them seeming incompetence of their service. This doesn’t sit well with the rest of the community as Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is much revered by everyone.
Something noticeable throughout Mcdonagh’s work is with all the cynicism and venom characters spew at one another, we have the vulnerability and depravity revealed in sometimes small doses but they never feel forced. It’s not a mechanic used to force us to care about people, it’s welcome in that they deal with their tragedy or luck with humour that’s brash and twisted that enables them to push through their dilemma.
three billboards
The townsfolk of Ebbing had me caring for just about everyone, including the ones opposing against Mildred. There’s no clear-cut villain here (other than the scumbag or scumbags who tortured and murdered Angela). We’re shown how vengeance, rage and glee can evolve into something rather dis-compassionate. How sometimes dialling back and seeing the future of your rightful cause for inflicting your sense of justice can further down the line turn into you something dangerous and inaccessible for infamous reasons.


Veteran talent like Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges and Abbie Cornish all shine here but Sam Rockwell’s turn as the dimwitted, inconsiderate but disarmingly endearing Dixon is a plum role that deserves Best Supporting Actor recognition.
The showcase here is by far McDormand’s volcanic, bad ass Mildred. She exhibits such humanity, drive and sardonic wit that her means of venting out and search for closure invites a whirlwind of frustration and anxiety amongst everyone around her. She’s working on peak power, one that undoubtedly will score her an Oscar nomination. It’s extraordinary work.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Mildred is the strongest, most empowering character I’ve seen in a long time. Her arc serves to address how we all just need to step back and contemplate on why we feed the fire with fire. Even the smaller characters are well rounded enough in how they propose alternatives and insight to the more flawed characters. Mcdonagh never misses an opportunity to show us fire or red or some kind of tension. We’re asked to recognise the potential of our anger and offset it with something more serene and responsible, a morality tale that asks us to be constructive, not destructive.
This film is grim, twisted, devastating, unpredictable, inspiring, bold and of course funny. I’m sore I didn’t see this in 2017 as it would’ve toppled Dunkirk as my fave of that year. Alas, it’s 2018 and even though it’s the first film I’ve seen this year, I’m positive nothing this year will dethrone Three Billboards as my fave of the year.
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