After seven months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at Bill Willoughby, the town's revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Jason Dixon, an immature mother's boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law enforcement is only exacerbated.
ActorsStarring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Samara Weaving, Zeljko Ivanek, Clarke Peters, Amanda Warren, Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Kathryn Newton, Sandy Martin, Riya May Atwood, Selah Atwood, Malaya Rivera Drew, Christopher Berry, Jerry Winsett, Brendan Sexton III, Alejandro Barrios, Jason Ledford, Gregory Nassif St. John, Allyssa Barley, William J. Harrison, Eleanor Threatt Hardy, Michael Aaron Milligan, Nick Searcy
Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand) has had a tough life. Her former husband was physically abusive, and her teenage daughter was recently raped and murdered in the small town of Ebbing, Missouri. She now brings up her son alone and becomes frustrated at the local police department’s lack of progress into the investigation of her daughter’s brutal death. Spotting a trio of unused roadside billboards on a quiet road in the town, she hits on the idea of renting them and keeping the case in the public eye by using advertisements to accuse the well-liked local chief of police chief Willoughby (played by Woody Harrelson) of neglecting the investigation.
The success of this film turns on a superb performance by Frances McDormand as the resolute Mildred, and a clever script that twists in unexpected ways and leavens its gritty subject matter with plenty of witty one-liners that relieve the tension without descending into farce. Another fine performance emerges from Sam Rockwell as the racist, lazy policeman Dixon, who tries to intimidate Mildred into dropping her advertising campaign. Mildred, however, is not someone to be easily pushed around, whatever the degree of social pressure from the local community. As the film develops each of the major characters shows more complexity than their initial portrayal, as misunderstandings on all sides lead to serious consequences.
The direction, by British director and playwright Martin McDonagh (who directed “In Bruges”), was terrific, the film never dragging for a moment in its 115 minute running time. I was particularly impressed at the pacing of this film and its deft ability to carry the audience along easily through territory that could easily end up as trite or worthy. Three Billboards is entertaining, dark and funny, and draws us ever deeper into the twist and turns of its tale.