Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Review

R: violence, language throughout, and some sexual references

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Film4 Productions

1 Hr and 55 Minutes

Written & Dir: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

INTRO: Here is a movie that I wanted to see for a long time. I love films where we follow a central character is just angry. That's why I love things with Bill Burr and Louis C.K. They're always mad. But writer/director  Martin McDonagh has made a movie with someone who has to be one of the most angriest people I've seen in a movie. She can probably be a sweetheart in real life but now I have a new fear, and her name is Frances McDormand.

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a darkly comic drama from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town's revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother's boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law enforcement is only exacerbated. 



If I was a teacher at a film school, and one of my topics was 'how to craft a great dark comedy,' the first director I would teach them about is Martin McDonagh and I would put on either “In Bruges” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” as examples to explain what a brilliant dark comedy should be. McDonagh has to be the perfect director who knows how to balance a compelling script with dark comedic humor and a great story. The film have you laugh at things you usually wouldn't laugh at such as jokes about race, homophobic, murder, etc. Someway, somehow McDonagh manages to take the inappropriate id out of you and have you laugh at jokes surrounding because of these dynamic characters who we follow. Besides his script, his direction is powerful. Some sequences are marvelous to look at with the way how he executes unexpected moments of violence and intensity. There is an amazing tracking shot of Sam Rockwell’s character, Officer Dixon losing his mind and it's such a pulse-pounding scene that leaves you breathless.


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If you've never seen a film or project staring or featuring Frances McDormand, let this be the first because not only does this show amazing she is but also this has to be the best leading role of her career since "Olive Kitteridge" which wasn’t so long ago. Her performance as Mildred Hayes is far more outstanding than Marge Gunderson in "Fargo." Granted she's excellent in "Fargo," but I 1) don’t like that movie and 2) she was the thing that powered me through it besides Steve Buscemi.

Her character Mildred isn't just mad that the police hasn’t done anything. She is furious. She won't give a fuck if you're dying until the culprit to her daughter's death has been caught. Because it's a small town, everyone knows each other.  One of the best things that this film establishes is that Mildred isn't just calling out strangers, but she's calling out the officers she experiences with. You know she tried working with the police in the past when her daughter first went missing. Don’t tell her about your thoughts on what she’s doing with her billboards because this would be one of her responses.

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The anger and mannerisms in Mildred’s bone are understood, and you root for her every step of the way. She never comes across as unlikable even when she does the most violent acts. This woman is The Grinch, and her heart won’t grow in three sizes until the case of her daughter’s murder is solved. She violently attacks all of the residences who go against her billboards through insult speeches and violence.  When she's not angry, you see her vulnerableness, and it displayed emotionally. There are moments where you look at her break and when you do you just want to hug her.



I have a secret love for Sam Rockwell (as a performer), and here he’s so good that it makes me hate him as he plays this racist prick whose only love is his momma for whom he lives with. This SOB is so detestable that he's one of the best joys of the movie. He's a terrible person, but he's terrific. He's like Uncle Ruckus but just white which pretty much just means he's a redneck racist. He has the racism of Uncle Ruckus and the IQ of Beavis and Butthead. Surprisingly enough his character has this great arc that is unexpected and adds a new layer of the film’s theme of humanity and change. In this violent world, you can see that even the worst people can find their humanity.

It's not just him, but everyone in this town of Ebbing is an idiot. The women are dumb and the men dim-wittingly aggressive. When it comes to the IQ game, Mildred is miles ahead of the pack. All of the cast are good, but they are just taking the far back seat of the bus McDonald drives.




So from the extensive cast of characters, one of most significant names is Peter Dinklage, and he’s barely in the movie. Woody Harrelson doesn’t have much screen time either, but that is explained. Dinklage appears in the beginning for a brief duration of time and then returns in the latter half of the movie for plot conveniences. He is a joy to watch, but he’s gone for such a long time that you forget that he’s in the film.


Dark, funny, gripping, and pretty much every reason to fall in love with Frances McDormand if you haven’t already Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” isn’t just one of his best features to date but is the new prime example of how a perfect dark comedy should be done.

Rating: 5/5 | 97% 

5 stars

uper Scene: “Things will change for you, Dixon.”