Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

In perhaps the best casting of the year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a brilliant film filled with indelible characters. Written, produced and directed by Martin McDonagh, the film revolves around the remorse that drives Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) to erect the titular billboards after the murder of her daughter remains unsolved.

Although situated on a nearly deserted road outside town, the billboards have their intended effect: “Raped while dying,” “And still no arrests,” “How come, Chief Willoughby?”

With the focus on the town’s police chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), he and his colleagues begin to formulate their reaction. Whereas Willoughby is soon drawn sympathetically, racist officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) proves quickly to be the prime doofus in town.

McDonagh did a grand job subverting expectations in his superb In Bruges and here he mixes dark humor and film noir stylings with a similarly potent result.

McDormand commands attention throughout the film; she has probably never been better. Likewise, Harrelson continues to explore his deep talent. The rest of the cast is excellent: John Hakes as the ex-husband and Peter Dinklage as a possible suitor are especially noteworthy. Probably my only instance of furrowed eyebrows is the casting of Abbie Cornish as Willoughby’s wife. A sentence or two of dialogue would have explained what this Aussie beauty is doing married to a backwoods cop in Missouri.

McDonagh’s script is like a tightrope, each character responsible for perfectly balancing the ebb and flow of the plot.

The film has already won top prize at the Toronto Film Festival, and it should tally well as we move into awards season.



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.