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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

Original, absolutely hilarious, shockingly brutal and yet so spontaneous. McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a thrilling ride of rage and sarcasm!

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Genre: Comedy / Drama

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Condon, John Hawkes, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Amanda Warren, Samara Weaving & Zeljko Ivanek.

Run Time: 115 min.

US Release: 10 November 2017

UK Release: 12 January 2018

German Release: 25 January 2018

It’s Oscar time, which means that the rest of the world living outside the US gets to see all the good movies in theatres, and this is one of them! Going into the screening I knew nothing about Three Billboards, as I stayed away from trailers and other reviews but what I couldn’t get away from, was the hype this film building. So I was naturally nervous because my expectation rocketed through the roof. In the end, though, it surprised the hell out of me; especially by going in without knowing exactly what Three Billboards was all about. This is a motion picture that will surprise even the biggest cinephiles, as it follows no specific story or structure. It is even better if you go in without watching any trailers or spoil yourself with vital information, which is why this review will be completely spoiler free!

Martin McDonagh, director of the fantastic In Bruges, is writer and regisseur of this darkly comedic drama, managing to create something that has been unseen as of yet. Driven by absolute anger and despair, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) rents three billboards standing on a small road in Ebbing, Missouri. The town police and its people soon start campaigning against those placards, with Sheriff Willoughby (Harrelson) trying to bring some sense to the middle-aged mother. While mean, Willoughby’s second-in-command Officer Dixon (Rockwell) starts his own movement against the billboards.

The plot is, among others, one of the strongest points this movie has. It contains an original idea, has a unique way of telling the story and is completely unprecedented in the paths it chooses to take. Although that same combination did not fair well for last week’s Downsizing, this black comedy uses it successfully as it still follows a story. McDonagh does not shy away from showing small-town life in the US in all its colourful facets, which makes the overall effectiveness of the narration so successful. The bleak and sometimes macabre comedy merges really well with the more dramatic aspects of the film. All of these attributes let the story flow incredibly frantic but natural.

I couldn’t help notice, though, that the plot has some issues as well. The resolution at the end is not satisfying enough, which did make me yearn for a longer runtime, to be able to give the audience a much deserved better ending.

The dialogues, on the other hand, are some of the boldest I have heard in a movie for a long time, which makes it equally one of the best. None of the talks between characters are censored, out of fear of political correctness; everything said and done reflects the mentality of the people living in that small fictional town. It is also the dialogue that carries most of the morbid comedy. I really do applaud the director, for having the balls to write it.

Frances McDormand, one of the great actresses in Hollywood, has given her best performance in this piece. She plays Mildred Hayes, a mother and divorced wife, who went through several traumas in her life. McDormand reflected all of the pain and suffering, as well as the persona’s inner struggle, perfectly by just handing out devious looks. Mildred can come off as a real pain in societies butt, still, there is a reason for her cold facade and sarcastic comments, she is a broken woman trying to regain a little bit of control over her life.

The character of Dixon, portrayed by Sam Rockwell, is one of the scummiest cops I have seen in a film. He is everything you don’t want to see in an officer of the law; a racist and bigot mother’s boy, who uses his badge to assault people for no reason. Rockwell did a great acting job, really the only issue I have with Dixon is not due to his performance but rather the fast-paced redemption that the character is given.

Woody Harrelson is as always grand. There is nothing I could say about his performance, that wouldn’t do the man enough justice! His role is complex and managed to amaze me with character twists I didn't see coming, and that is all I will say about him. Finally, I want to pay recognition to Peter Dinklage, who just as the rest of the cast gave a magnificent performance.

The cinematography is pretty much contrasting the storytelling and Ben Davis did a wonderful job as director of photography. The movie consists just of steady shots, which oppose the disarrayed life of the town’s folk in Ebbing, and makes for a fantastic balance. It is beautiful to look at, with its panoramic takes and the wide shots. I also noticed that McDonagh did not include many close-ups, focusing more on the town as a whole, rather than one single inhabitant. I had no issue whatsoever with the way this piece of art was filmed and cut!


Verdict: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a tour de force, using the character’s emotions of anger and helplessness to drive the narration forward. Each minute was a surprise, as the story doesn’t follow a straight path and the raw and unexpurgated small-town life is displayed in all its details. A big portion of the backstory is told through these billboards, which is absolutely unique storytelling. In fact, this complete motion picture was original. All performances are marvellous, with McDormand, Rockwell and Harrelson leading the impeccable cast; especially McDormand, who gives the greatest performance of her career. The dialogues are uncomfortable to hear at times but nevertheless brilliant, as they are the source of much of the comedy. There are a few aspects that could have been better realised but overall this is an exceptional film that deserves a 9.0 out of 10.

Have you seen McDonagh’s new picture yet? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below and if you liked this review don’t forget to share it with friends and family. Thank you very much for reading!

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