(originally published Jan 04, 2018)
SPOILER WARNING: Ending and other spoilery plot points are discussed from the third paragraph on.
Anchored by a slew of unbelievable performances, Three Billboards is a fiery whipcrack of a movie that bowls you over with feeling in service of its characters. While it occasionally stumbles in the logic and storytelling department, it doesn't take away from the experience when you're in it. This film is an emotional examination, and on that level, it works like magic.
Much and more has been said about Frances McDormand's performance as Mildred in this film, and it's truly deserving of the hype and worth the price of admission. Her character is an agent of grief-fueled fury, and watching her spit Martin McDonagh's acidic words at her foes is a sight to see, even if it sometimes feels schticky. Sam Rockwell also delivers a career-best performance as a loser shitheel cop (Dixon), who walks a fine line between being a deplorable racist and bumbling idiot. In a film loaded with good characters, Rockwell manages to stands out among the pack.
The film is structured almost like a two act play, with a theoretical third act being teased at the very end. I'm not sure how I feel about how it ended. I'm always a fan of open-ended narratives, and it never felt like this would be one of those films that wraps itself up neatly, but something about it didn't sit right. Maybe because I didn't remotely expect it to end with Mildred and Dixon road-tripping to Idaho on a mission to maybe kill a possible rapist that didn't seem to have anything to do with Midred's daughter's rape and murder. I appreciate the film going diagonally when most films would be satisfied with going either left or right, but I’m not sure if it worked in this case, especially in light of how weirdly they handled this potential rapist character.
There were a few gaps in logic that left me scratching my head afterward. The standout scene in the film is the unbelievable one-er where Dixon savagely beats and throws one of the characters out the window. It’s a powerful emotionally-driven moment that is underscored by a canyon-sized logic gap where they new good cop character they introduce in that very sequence (who makes note of how he's a good cop later in the film) fails to arrest Dixon, or even call an ambulance for the dude he watched get beat up.
There are a few other weirdly undercooked things like that in the film, but they didn't distract from the emotional stakes, which were always more important and interesting to McDonagh, and thus more important and interesting to me. This is an angry film that covers a wide gamut of human emotion over the course of two hours, all of which are easily felt, even if some of it feels a bit too convenient.