Thursday, 4 January 2018

#2 & 9: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI


Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges and Peter Dinklage. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Budget $12 million. Running time 115 minutes. Certificate 15.

An ink-black comedy from playwright, writer, director and producer Martin McDonagh who previously wrote and directed the simply superb In Bruges and the not so superb and over-egged Seven Psychopaths. This, the third film directed by McDonagh is, in a word, superb.

The story sees grief-stricken Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) buy advertising space on three dilapidated billboards on the outskirts of the small midwest town of Ebbing. The posters verbally attack the much loved Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) for not solving the rape and murder of her teenage daughter, which happened eight months previously. However with no arrests, no leads, no suspects and no hope of ever being solved, Willoughby has done just about everything he can do to solve the crime and is as frustrated as Hayes at the lack of results. The posters stir up much feeling in the close-knit community and Mildred, her family and her friends soon finds herself under attack from the inhabitants and police force of Ebbing, and in particular Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a racist homophobic, not-too-bright officer with serious anger management issues and a chip on his shoulder the size of Missouri.

This is a dark, powerful film, which manages to perfectly balance the black-humour with the pathos, making you laugh one scene and then break your heart in the next. The humour is delivered perfectly by the three main leads, McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell and where it is clear that this is McDormand's film, whose performance is simply staggering, that's not to take anything away from the other leads, who are equally as compelling and together all three deliver  performances worthy of Oscar consideration. There's a staggering scene between McDormand and Harrelson in an interrogation suite that is just heartbreaking, as is a terrible flashback that will resonate with each and every parent. We spend time with the friends and families of each of the three main characters, which all contributes to create a truly nuanced and layered film with a genuine emotional heart.

The trailer would lead you to believe that this is the story of one woman's fight for justice, but it's not. It's the story about how a closely knit community, deal with a terrible crime and its aftermath. Honestly, this was a superb film, perfectly balanced, brilliantly directed, beautifully photographed and deeply, deeply moving. I loved its languid pace and most of all its characters, I wanted to spend more time with them and stay in Ebbing for a little longer. This is that sort of film where you know each and every person involved has given it their all.

It's not perfect, with so many characters, some momentum is lost, and there is there's also the odd introduction of a new character late in the proceedings who might offer a conclusion that's frankly not really needed, especially since this is the sort of story where the journey is far more interesting than the destination.

Overall, this is a profoundly moving, extremely funny, and immensely satisfying movie and I think one of the films of the year, and it's only the 2nd of January. 9/10

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