Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
By: Thomas Troyan
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is the new comedy-drama directed by Martin McDonagh. Featuring a talented cast including Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson, the film looks into a small rural town as one woman begins to challenge the police force in an attempt to solve her daughter’s murder. This plot however, is more of an excuse to allow McDonagh’s characters to interact, engaging in sharp dialogue, moving the plot forward at a nice pace.
McDormand dominates the screen as Mildred Hayes, a woman who rents three billboards outside her town to publicly call out the town police chief, Bill Willoughby, hoping to provide pressure to solve a crime that occurred seven months before. Every time she’s on screen she mystifies, displaying strength in how she must deal with defending her actions against a public that hates her, vulnerability as she reflects on the death of her daughter, and hope that justice may one day come. At her core, she is a mother who is upset at the loss of her child and is shifts that anger and hatred towards the government force that she believes should be responsible for providing answers.
The other fantastic performances from this film come from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. Harrelson plays Chief Willoughby, dying from cancer, as he deals with Haye’s attack on his character. We see a man who is simply trying his best to provide closure to her, as he himself is struggling with his own mortality. His underling, the Officer Jason Dixon, is played by Sam Rockwell. Rockwell disappears into this role, as a racist officer, who wants to nothing more than to hold authority. He is constantly unable to do so due to his lack of empathy for those around him. He bumbles around, displaying blind respect to his Chief, while also going after Hayes for the disrespect aimed not just at him, but at the entire police force.
I would love to be able to delve into the plot more, to persuade people to see this movie, but to do so would be a disservice. The film is simply not one to miss. Every actor in this film delivers a wonderful performance, and the characters are just a joy to watch on screen. The film features McDonagh’s witty dialogue that some may be familiar with from his previous films such as “In Bruges” – though on this outing he brings so much more. In the hands of another director, this film easily could have been something of a bore-fest where a distraught parent is able to uncover the details behind their child’s death with the aid of the bumbling police force. But instead, McDonagh delivers a wide cast of unforgettable characters in a plot that manages to weave in so many small scenes that just add that much more. If you want to see a great movie, I urge you to go and see “Three Billboards.” McDonagh has yet to disappoint me.