Ebbing, and unerring: Rashid Irani reviews Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh is undisputedly one of the finest scriptwriters in contemporary cinema. The third feature (following In Bruges, 2008 and Seven Psychopaths, 2012) by the celebrated Anglo-Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker is another pitch-black dramedy that manages to be hilarious, hurtful and heart-warming all at once.
The story is simple. It’s been seven years since a teenager was raped and murdered on the outskirts of her fictional hometown.
Outraged by the inability of the local sheriff (Woody Harrelson, astonishingly poignant) to make arrests, the victim’s mother (Frances McDormand) takes justice into her own hands.
For starters, she puts up provocative posters on three disused billboards near the scene of the crime. The situation soon spirals out of control with the grief-stricken mom wreaking havoc on anyone who dares to stand in her way.
She is particularly appalled by the attitude of a racist cop (Sam Rockwell, a shoo-in for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar) who thinks nothing of throwing innocent townsfolk out of windows.
In case you think you can predict in which direction the narrative is heading, think again. Bristling with profane dialogue (some of it bleeped by the censors), the plot constantly twists and turns, ensuring the viewer is kept riveted right up to the open-ended last shot.
Frances McDormand, who won her first Best Actress Oscar for Fargo in 1996, will likely garner a second statuette for her portrayal of an abrasive avenger. It’s going to be a tough call to choose between her and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water).
Simultaneously unnerving and hopeful – one of the characters cautions that “anger merely begets anger” –Three Billboards outside Ebbing is a must-experience.
Watch the trailer here: