Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a fantastic crime drama with a darkly comedic spin that will put you through a range of emotions on this riveting journey. The film is written and directed by Martin McDonagh and follows Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a mother who instals three billboards delivering a bold message to police chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) who after months has failed to catch the culprit who murdered her daughter. The film boasts incredible Oscar-worthy performances from an immensely talented cast and characters that are so well written you wouldn’t be wrong to think they are real people. McDonagh executes some of the best character development of the year as everyone has a meaningful arc and a number of layers. The story is riveting from start to finish and paced fantastically, also there is a careful balance of drama, emotion, and humour to where neither one overpowers the rest. It is accompanied by a score helmed by Carter Burwell that perfectly compliments the tone of every scene.
The writing here from McDonagh is phenomenal, he takes this seemingly simple one-note concept of one woman going up against a police department and takes it in a number of directions you never thought it would go in a very grounded and real way. The unpredictability leads to surprises around every corner and you never know where things are going to end up. The pacing is consistent throughout, never skips a beat or spends too long on one detail. All of the characters are written with a level of depth that that makes each and every person unique and intriguing in their own way. There isn’t an under-utilised character in here as everyone has a meaningful story behind them giving them flaws and making them starkly human; grounding them in reality.
The performances across the board are some of the best of the year, and it’s no surprise from an experienced talented cast. Frances McDormand is phenomenal in the lead role and commands the screen the whole time. Her character is the one who establishes the tone of almost every scene and she conveys all of the pain and emotions her character is going through with the subtlest of gestures and facial expressions. But for me the standout here is Sam Rockwell as he puts in a definitive Oscar-worthy performance. He exhibits so much range in his performance that he displays all of the layers of this complex character with ease. Other performances from Woody Harrelson, and Caleb Landry Jones are fantastic and share a tonne of chemistry between the other characters they interact with.
The movie is thoroughly enjoyable and it only gets more and more entertaining as time goes on. Certain characters grow on you with each passing minute and you begin to get more invested in their lives as you learn more about them. The plot is riveting and there is never a moment of downtime where I wanted things to move on. The comedic moments are perfectly integrated through character interactions and don’t feel out of place with the more sombre or somewhat darker dramatic moments. It’s a very deep and thought-provoking film that will most definitely be widely featured come the Oscars.