Review / ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri’ (MA) **** and a half

BRAVO, English writer/director Martin McDonagh, whose longish (115 minutes) film doesn’t fit any single generic classification but tells its story with consummate cinematic style and no flab.

It’s rich in themes as it unfolds a mother’s anger that Ebbing’s police chief Willoughby (a decent man honoured with a fine performance from Woody Harrelson) hasn’t caught the man who raped and murdered her daughter seven months earlier.

Willoughby’s reasons are thoroughly cogent. It’s not that he hasn’t been trying.

The grapevine suggests that McDonagh wrote the screenplay as a vehicle for the magnificent Frances McDormand as Mildred, who hires the decrepit billboards to display posters challenging Willoughby’s ineptitude.

The film then embarks on a journey through revenge, grief, anger and violence to a denouement that may resolve issues but certainly doesn’t take resolution for granted.

As well as McDormand and Harrelson, Sam Rockwell is impressive as a cop who perceives his job as giving him carte blanche to behave badly before going home to his mother.

As a used-car salesman who sides with Mildred in her crusade, Peter Dinklage may be height disadvantaged but I’ve never seen him in a role that he played less than convincingly. Abbie Cornish, whose career really took off when she came to Canberra in 2004 to play Heidi in Cate Shortland’s multi-award-winning “Somersault”, plays Willoughby’s wife. Even the bit players (many of whom were local amateurs) do a wonderfully complex plot proud.

But best of all, the film’s dramatic credibility is close to complete. It has the chops to appear in several categories at the coming Oscars. Audience satisfaction may not be a category, but for dark humour, unabashed use of all those gritty words now common-place in cinema, stage and TV performance but to which print media editors still deny access on their pages, and delivery of intense emotions, it has few equals.

At Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Dendy


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.
%d bloggers like this: