Three Billboards Outide Ebbing, Missouri movie review: An absurdist comedy in some parts, an emotional drama in others

The most pleasurable thing about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the element of persistent unpredictability.

Mihir Fadnavis February 23, 2018 12:18:57 IST

4/5

There are a number of reasons why Martin McDonagh is one of the best writer-directors out there.

For one, he has a unique skill set of finding very dark humour in messed up situations and messy elements in what should be straightforward humorous situations. And as showcased earlier in In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, his flair for sardonic one liners remains intact in his fascinatingly titled new film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

The best way to enjoy Three Billboards... is to not know absolutely anything about the plot and be taken away by the many surprises the film offers. All you need to know is that Francis McDormand plays Mildred, a woman who has recently experienced a tragedy and is looking for justice. She has a special score to settle with the local police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) who is going through his own inner turmoil and whose work is further tarnished by an extremely racist police officer in the unit named Dixon (Sam Rockwell).

Three Billboards Outide Ebbing Missouri movie review An absurdist comedy in some parts an emotional drama in others

Sam Rockwell and Francis McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

The most pleasurable thing about Three Billboards, like in other McDonagh movies, is the element of persistent unpredictability. The filmmaker constantly uses randomness to both hilarious and shocking levels, and yet finds the right balance between absurdist comedy and emotional drama. You could be laughing your head off in one moment but you’re also taken in by the poignant ignominy of a character in the other. The other wonderful aspect of the film is how McDonagh peppers a subtle, breezy undercurrent of social commentary, particularly with the representation of minorities in mid western America. The depiction is key, however, and it never feels like a manipulative element but a satirical lesson to be seen through the eyes of the drunken Rockwell character.

For all the biting sarcasm this is the bleakest McDonagh film, and the strange mixture between the characters’ evilness and the inherent niceness that is bursting at the seams is what makes it a really compelling watch. Clearly everyone who made the film is quite pessimistic in their world view but there is an element of hope and depiction of simple action that can be taken to make a change.

Then there is the showcase of tremendous cinematic performances from everyone.

McDormand, whose character was written with precisely her in mind is locked to grab the Oscar next month, and Rockwell continues to establish himself as the most underrated actor working today. Not only is his character arc beautifully designed but his performance is magnetic enough to make him both lovable and loathsome, and particularly engrossing every time he shifts from the latter to the former. Caleb Landry Jones shows up in a side splitting cameo and later gets involved in the most violent scene in the film which also turns to be a showcase for Ben Davis’ cinematography.

The final scene of the film is not what you expect in a thriller, but that’s the beauty of watching an unconventional film like this – you get to marinate the film inside your mind, mull it over, decide along the way home if what just happened was just an abrupt open ending or logically (and socially) the perfect method to tie it up all together.

We’re lucky to have this film release in theaters, whether you’re a film geek or not you should be booking your tickets right about now.

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