Given the recent success of Three Billboards at the recent Golden Globe award, much hype and fanfare has lauded the film on its journey to cinemas. Is the hype valid and are awards worthy for this dark and at times deeply unpleasant look at inhabitants of the small fictional town in America's Midwest?
Ebbing is a deeply troubled town. Unresolved issues linger in its streets and anger festers within its residents. Mildred (Frances McDormand) has suffered more than most, a daughter murdered in horrendous circumstances and local law enforcement judged to be inept by her, prompt the purchase of three billboards on the town's outskirts to highlight her rage. Black lettering on a blood red background, the font of death and bloodshed asking questions, highlighting attention to her plight and seeking resolution for her pain.
Woody Harrelson is the police chief Willoughby, himself an aggressive and unpleasant man, caught in Mildred's crosshairs. As flawed as those he should seek to protect, he is vulgar, sharp tongued and seemingly content to house racist, loose cannon, numbskull Dixon (Sam Rockwell) as his number two.
While Mildred and Willoughby go to war trading verbal barbs and tit for tat obscenities, the realisation hits that no one in Ebbing is likeable or worthy of our emotional investment.
Chief among these is the aforementioned Dixon, festering with rage and right wing tendencies, he is a ticking time bomb of stupidity and violence, primed to react rather than respond. When the inevitable explosion happens, it is bloody and unwarranted, perpetrated on an innocent resident of the town.
There is no justice in Ebbing, there is only anger and violence. Ebbing does not hold within it solutions that bring peace but only more chaos and destruction. Property and lives are considered collateral damage in order to find some resolution. This is not a town I would wish to live in.
McDormand's performance as Mildred is impressive as the lone gunslinger seeking justice in the small town setting. She is an untamed force, carrying a weight that I would never wish to bear but her determination to tear down those who should be her help in the fight for justice make it hard to join her cause.
Ebbing is filled with unlikeable caricatures, too extreme to be credible and when moments of grace and resolution present themselves, McDonagh has failed to sufficiently build each of them up to be deserving of our care.
My faith calls me to seek justice for those who have been wronged, relentlessly forgive those who cause their pain and ultimately asks me to love my enemies.
In Ebbing, loving your enemy is not an option, their vision of justice is unrecognisable and forgiveness left town a long time ago.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is classified as a 15 certificate by the BBFC
Director: Martin McDonagh
Running time: 115 mins
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is released in UK and Irish cinemas on 12th January.
Thanks to MovieHouse for screening access.