Martin McDonagh is back, and in a season of brilliant films, his stands out.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri tells the tale of Mildred Hayes, portrayed by Frances McDormand, who rents out three billboards in order to slate the police chief of her town Ebbing, due to his inaction in the aftermath of her daughters brutal assault and murder.

First and foremost, McDormand’s performance is incredible. There really is not any other way of describing it. Her performance is powerful, explosive, and completely breath-taking. She is able to brilliantly evoke the myriad of difficult emotions that no doubt cloud her character. Whilst many of the more explosive scenes are incredible showcases for her talent, in the quieter moments she maintains the same level of excellence. It is the best performance of her career, without a doubt.

But one of the great things about 3BOEM is that the supporting performances manage to hold their own against McDormand’s tour de force, which is hardly surprising, considering the array of incredible acting talent. Woody Harrelson plays the role of the aforementioned police chief, and his nuanced performance complements McDormand’s fury excellently. However, the most credit should be given to Sam Rockwell. He plays Jason Dixon, a police officer in Ebbing with a coloured past, and in a film so dominated by one actor, his take on a conflicted anti-hero is a career highlight. The role is complex and complicated, but Rockwell manages to step up accordingly in a truly brilliant display.

Performances aside, the film is Martin McDonagh at his absolute best. The screenplay is littered with his trademark quick wit, but rather than feeling like a re-hash of his previous work, the darker overall tone of Three Billboards grounds it, and the story feels more genuine than his previous efforts. Character development is another area where 3BOEM succeeds. McDonagh, whose previous film Seven Psychopaths was troubled by two dimensional characters, has created a world filled with rich personalities and compelling back-stories. Every member of the little town of Ebbing is fully realised.

The same success is also evident in its visuals. Ben Davies, the director of photography, has done an incredible job; the stark reds of the titular billboards are striking against the dark backdrops of the night sky and the often lingering shots of the landscape are hauntingly beautiful. The small town aesthetic that permeates the film is eye-catching, complemented by fantastic production design and costume work. 3BOEM is a wonderful example of a film with outstanding technical filmmaking at its centre, without the need extensive CGI or outlandish settings.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is nothing short of a modern masterpiece, and does not just contain one of the greatest performances in recent years, but also the best work by a director who has an incredibly promising future.


Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri is currently showing at Curzon Canterbury.