Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ★★★

This movie has some really exceptional performances in it and some great casting. Frances McDormand (who lets face it, is always great) is phenomenal in the lead role. Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are also great in the supporting parts (though Woody seems a bit like he's doing True Detective Mark II) and all the smaller parts, from Peter Dinklage to Peter Landry Jones are great. I was really happy to see Clarke Peters get a look in as well.

The key issue I had with the film was script related. I feel like McDonagh relies on violence a little too heavily whenever he needs to move the plot forward. The film escalates quickly and gets a little too over the top in places to really fit the very realistic drama that characterizes the rest of the film. This is a shame because I feel like had McDonagh opted to go a little less gonzo with the violence (and perhaps tweaked the ending a little), this would have been a truly great film rather than just a merely good one.

Problematically, I feel like a lot of the calling out police brutality and racism was about getting the audience on Frances McDormand's character's side rather than saying anything meaningful about race in America . Also, McDormand's character in the film has a black friend who gets jailed for much of the film as a result of McDormand's decisions and this largely passes without commentary. Given that police brutality is heavy topic, perhaps using it as a plot point/ as a means of gaining sympathy for a white character is a bit tasteless. Its a tricky line for the film (which is at base, a very small and self-contained story) to tread and probably could have used a much lighter touch.

The film is an engaging ride, but doesn't seem to have a lot to say at the end. The take home message of the film seems to be that violence is highly satisfying for resolving problems but also begets more violence. I definitely don't agree with the former, while the latter seems self evident.

This film left me with the sense that McDonagh may eventually have a truly great film in him. I feel like his work is improving gradually as time goes along. He always manages to get great performances out of actors, which is certainly a genuine gift. I think a co-writer who could help him check some of his worst impulses would be very helpful for McDonagh in the future.

Still well worth seeing and easily the most I've enjoyed a McDonagh film.