Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Critic Consensus: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deftly balances black comedy against searing drama -- and draws unforgettable performances from its veteran cast along the way.
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Critic Reviews for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sound too bleak? For some, perhaps. But in McDonagh's careful hands, it's a Cirque du Soleil-like tightrope walk, gracefully balancing the harrowing with the humorous.
But while that is a rage that's exhilarating to witness, it's a rage that's not available to everyone. Just as not everyone in Ebbing can claim the protection of being considering "good," we still don't live in a world where everyone gets to be angry.
The movie is one of the angriest films in recent memory. Yet it has moments of unlikely (yet hilarious) comedy and sincere tenderness, along with acts of nearly unwatchable violence
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri tells the story of a woman emulating God's vengeance when she might profit more by emulating his forgiveness, especially toward herself.
McDonagh works way too hard to inject nearly every scene with his patented solution of acid wit and dark-roast comedy... It's jarringly effective until it starts to feel like shtick, at which point it works only as a numbing agent.
Audience Reviews for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The praise of McDormand and Rockwell at this year's oscars has been well deserved given their powerhouse performances here. They're not the only characters that work really great here. The plot is pretty smart and takes some unexpected turns as well. A moving, relevant, funny and tragic story.
Although Martin McDonagh's last film, Seven Psychopaths, had a fervent fan base I was very disappointed in it; narratively it was all over the place and I found the humour to be extremely forced. With Three Billboards... it's good to see that McDonagh has taken stock and decides to deliver something a bit different this time. Like his brother John Michael did after delivering laughs with The Guard, he followed it up with a more serious tone in Calvary and it was a magnificent change of direction. This doesn't quite hit the same level as his brother's aforementioned film but there's still plenty to admire here. Plot: Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is an angry, grieving mother who demands justice for the rape and murder of her teenage daughter. But after months have passed and still no arrests, Mildred makes a bold move and has three billboards erected that accuse the local Sherrif (Woody Harrelson) of doing nothing about it. This causes a feud between Mildred and the local law enforcement that only escalates over time. As the title suggests, we open on said three billboards which serve as the driving force behind the film's plot developments. Although the message they contain is a striking one, they essentially serve as a self-reflective, moral question that eats away at a number of the small towns inhabitants - none more so than Francis McDormand's mother of the deceased and Woody Harrelson's Police Chief in charge of the investigation. What McDonagh manages to capture here is a fine sense of small town America and how such a tragedy can be so impactful and devastating. This is ultimately the strengths within the film as well as some excellent acting from its three principle leads in McDormand, Harrelson and, the always reliable Sam Rockwell. There's also some fine support in the mould of Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes and, the infinitely appealing, Peter Dinklage. To accompany the cast of oddities we have a wonderfully fitting score from Carter Burwell that's reminiscent of his contributions to the works of the Coen brothers. The Coens this ain't, however. McDonagh isn't able to balance his film with the same finesse as the Coens. As he did in his previous films In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, he includes some offensive racist jokes in one hand while bordering on sexism in the other. As if that's not enough he has Dinklage on the receiving end of one-too-many "midget" jibes. If handled with a bit more subtlety then they might have been acceptable but it's the needless repetition of these remarks that make them unpleasant. These were the issues I had with the film as they create tonal shifts that feel uneasy and show that McDonagh is trying too hard to be funny when there's really no need. When he's not concerned with humour, however, McDonagh is actually delivering a solid low-key drama and thankfully that's what takes precedence. Essentially, the film is split into a three act structure McDormand hasn't been offered a role this good since her Oscar winning turn in Fargo but, as good as she is, I'm not understanding some of the glowing, five-star reviews the film itself has been receiving - much like I didn't understand the love for Seven Psychopaths. Maybe it's just me but McDonagh really needs to work on his tonal inconsistencies which play havoc on an otherwise great concept. There are contrivances and some plot developments that simply don't work but as a commentary on the state of modern America it's quite astute and while it explores some mature themes, I just can't get past the overriding feeling that McDonagh has yet to grow into a mature filmmaker. This is a good film but it just lacks that cutting-edge spark to make it a great one. Mark Walker
Halfway through this film, I was ready to call it the best film of the year. Then the story started taking wild turns and got a little out of hand, but I will take a messy and original story over a clean and mundane one any day. The dialogue is well written, but it's McDormand and Harrelson's performances that carry this movie. It's dark, its funny and it has a really interesting premise. I am not sure how I would have concluded this unique story, but it seems neither did McDonagh. You just have to take the good with the bad when it comes to this one, and I'm okay with that.
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