“An outstandingly well written film that is expertly acted, fantastically produced, and perfectly directed. This is cinema at its best.”
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Written by: Martin McDonagh
Runtime: 115 Mins
Release: 12 January 2018 (UK)
Within the first few minutes of watching Three Billboards I knew that this film was easily going to be a front runner in my ‘Best Film of the Year’ category; even though it came out only twelve days after the new year began, at least in the UK, I know for certain that it is going to remain a hard to beat contender for the rest of 2018. Everything about this film is impeccably presented and had me savouring every last second, I have not been impressed in such a way in a very long time.
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, the person behind the brilliant In Bruges, Three Billboards is yet another example of McDonagh’s incredible skill at story telling. Everything said or done within this film has a reason, everything is fleshed out allowing what occurs in the film to feel incredibly real, even with its some more outlandish plot points. The truth of the story was so real that, after the screening, I had to see whether it was based on true events; the fact that there isn’t actually a town in Missouri called Ebbing is what finally convinced me that this was not a real tale.
The artistic choices throughout this film is another part of McDonagh’s narrative that will lead this film to be discussed in University lectures for years; it actually had me harking back to my own time studying for a degree, saddened that I would not be able to discuss this film at length with the like minded individuals in the classroom. From the iconography of a policeman’s badge, the choice of clothing of the main character, to the constant and conscious allusions to the 1973 movie ‘Don’t Look Now’ starring Donald Sutherland, the homage to 1978’s ‘The Deer Hunter’, and the colour palette that includes the stark juxtaposition between the billboards and the town around them, everything about this film has been thought out to the tiniest detail, and has created an almost perfect interwoven narrative that is thankfully getting the praise it deserves.
If I was more well known I would request that the BFI hire me to write the essay for their Modern Classics collection because I could probably write an entire chapter on each of the aforementioned points.
The script itself is a masterpiece. Horribly real and horrendously funny, McDonagh’s writing is able to alleviate the tension built with sometimes harsh comedy that manages to not feel out of place or shoehorned in. The laughs were honest and natural, only ever not hitting its mark once throughout the entire feature. McDonagh also uses the inverse to great affect too, presenting us with a comical scene only for it to become very real, very quickly. I won’t go into specifics but in the interrogation scene in particular, despite it involving a character we are yet unsure of, McDonagh manages to flip our judgement within a literal instant. Whilst a lot of this is because of his masterful writing, it is also largely due to the incredible cast that took part in this feature.
All, and I mean all, of the actors that were assembled for this piece were expertly chosen; allowing us to revel in some of (if not the) best performances from all three of its headline actors; Francis McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell.
Harrelson brings an integrity and emotional range that I don’t think I have ever seen from him before. Full of regret and remorse, as well as fear at what he is going through, all masked by a unique form of bravery that has you falling for the character despite his often unsuccessful attempts at progressing the films main plot strand.
Rockwell presents his character in the harshest of lights; an idiotic racist bully who uses his powers as a police officer to do whatever he wants. Many people have criticised this character, declaring that the recognition that Rockwell is receiving for such a role is wrong, saying that we should not be allowing such a role to be go unchecked in the mainstream media, especially considering the journey the character goes on throughout. Yet I believe the character is much needed, and Rockwell executes the performance perfectly.
The type of character he is playing is, like much of the script, very true to life. A horrible reality that many people have to live alongside. By petitioning for such a character not to be shown is just hiding the fact that such a person can, and does, exist. That each character has redemptive moments, Rockwell’s included, should not be seen as McDonagh’s script trying to stick up for these people, but instead show that the scars of the past can help teach someone how to become better. It might not always work out perfectly, but it is a step in the right direction for the character. By the end of the film the character wears his scars out in the open, and Rockwell manages to sway the audience to his side with his performance. An incredible feat especially considering the things that occur within the film.
McDormand is perfection. The role was written specifically for her and, although she was hesitant at first to take it due to self inflicted worries that she was too old, executes it perfectly. For a character that says little and keeps her emotions locked away, the audience is constantly aware of the internal struggle of the character. From a tiny facial twitch, to the slight change in vocal inclination, to the rare moments the character breaks her wall and reveals her raw emotion, McDormand is a powerhouse and easily shows why she was specifically chosen to be the face of this film.
Overall this film is a masterpiece. McDonagh has brought together a collection of actors who have given some of their finest work over to him, allowing his already brilliant story to shine brighter than I ever imagined it could as I first walked into the screening. Whether this will claim the place as my best film of 2018 is yet to be decided, but I think I can safely say that, no matter what comes out in the next ten months of releases, this will be a hard film to knock from the top spot.