Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri review: Martin McDonagh completes a near perfect trilogy of movies with this crime-comedy-drama led by a superb Frances McDormand.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri review by Paul Heath, September 2017.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri review

Martin McDonagh brings his third feature to the screen. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri follows the impressive double-whammy of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, the likes of Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell returning from his second movie – both of whom seem to be having an absolute blast from start to finish.

Make no mistake though, this is very much a film belonging to Frances McDormand. She plays the character of Mildred Hayes, a single mother of two who decides to take things into her own hands after her daughter was brutally raped and murdered seven months previous. With the police investigation seemingly having dried up, Hayes purchases the use of the three billboards of the title, which are located on an unused road, just outside of the city of Ebbing. The three billboards are a call to arms, particularly aimed at the city’s apparently inept police force, and of course the local media. Hayes’ plan works, and the police chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), who is named on the boards, instantly reacts, which sets of a chain of events that will hopefully lead to the arrest of Hayes’ young daughter’s murderer.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri review

Of course, this being a Martin McDonagh film, nothing is quite what it seems and everything and everything can, and does happen. As with his previous two films, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is littered with constant cursing, bloody violence, political incorrectness and tons and tons of dark humour.

The film is an absolute delight to watch from the opening few frames, all of the way through to the end. McDormand commands the screen in every scene that she’s in – an absolute sure-thing for awards season, her role perhaps one of the best parts written for a female lead all year. She’s supported by some stellar work from an on-form Woody Harrelson as the firm but fair police chief who is also battling his own issues – a seemingly incompetent police force, a terminal cancer and the thoughts of leaving his young family behind. This is Harrelson at his absolute best – both comedic in his delivery, but also a turn that is strangely moving.

Related: Seven Psychopaths review

Sam Rockwell is also present as one of the aforementioned police officers, an alcoholic loser who still lives with his mother in the family home. The actor delivers a fantastic character in Officer Dixon, and brings many of the laughs to proceedings, pretty much from the off.

Further down the cast list are the likes of handlebar moustached Peter Dinklage, a used car salesman who also suffers from similar alcohol related problems, and more than a passing infatuation with Mildred. John Hawkes stars as Mildred’s wife-beating ex-husband who we find out has run off with a much younger woman, while we also have Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea), Abbie Cornish and Caleb Landry Jones showing up at various points in various supporting, expertly cast turns.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri review

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is absolutely McDonagh’s best work. The film will have you hooked in almost immediately, and manages to both shock, wince and laugh all at the same time. Repeatedly.

An absolute crowd-pleaser, the early buzz from both the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, where we viewed the film, are all well-deserved – it’s an absolute masterclass in how to land virtually everything right. A jaw-dropping, hilarious film that we cannot recommend enough. Absolutely one of the best films, and all-round laugh-out-loud movie experiences of the year. I cannot wait to see it again.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri review by Paul Heath, September 2017.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri review premieres at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival before getting a UK release on 12th January 2018.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri