Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


There aren’t many writer-directors who could tell a story of small-town murder Discuss this article

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There aren’t many writer-directors who could tell a story of small-town murder, grief and guilt at the same time as taking you down all sorts of black-comic paths and having immense fun with the writing and acting along the way. But Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) is one of them, and his bloody third film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, takes his work to a new level of versatility and surprise.

It’s almost a year since Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand, on absolutely roaring form) lost her teen daughter to an unknown murderer. She’s angry, as well as distraught, and she pays for a series of disused billboards outside her town to carry huge posters asking why no one has been arrested yet.

She points the finger at Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), simply because he’s the sheriff, but it makes her public enemy number one.

Everyone takes against her, from her abusive former husband (John Hawkes) to a rash and racist hothead young cop, Dixon (Sam Rockwell, a blinding performance). But she’s having none of it: she just becomes more determined to fight anyone who gets in her way.

From there, Three Billboards takes all sorts of unexpected turns, and what starts off looking like a story of a wronged mother becomes much more muddy, unusual and meandering. Sure, she’s shaking things up, but is she going too far, and should Willoughby be taking all this heat?

McDonagh has shown previously that he can flip in a second between laughs and violence, but there’s a new layer of compassion here, too.

The bottom line
Truly original with excellent performances.

By Dave Calhoun
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • Duration: 115
  • Released: Thu, 01 Feb
  • Language: English
  • Director: Martin McDonagh
  • Stars: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell

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