Singularly full-flavored, with and entrée made up of a searing drama, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a map for future filmmakers to keep from circumventing into the territory of lackluster while trying to grapple with similar subject matter. This is a film of astral performances; such restrained dramaturgy in the face of a tidal wave of lethal emotions and bigotry where the children do not hesitate to call their parents bad words to their face and also where bad cops go home to their mothers, to a TV Dinner and then some.
Turns out that Missouri is not about good or bad, it could be about people making caustic choices, which in turn serve as humor amidst the tears and the tragedy being presented throughout by way of unforgettable performances from its veteran cast. It defines the two words as the characters maneuver the story arc and make their own definition of right, wrong, in a hard-hitting way that only a select few can, seasoned, veteran performers who know when to stop speaking and let the other tear you apart with brutal outrages, exerting from a transitive and a supercharged, intense, hardened, bitter, and a bold script by Martin McDonagh, a script that won the BAFTA Award and the Golden Globe Award.
Director Martin McDonagh meddles with the natural course that emotions may take; he raises roadblocks for the characters to keep running in to; even going to great lengths to put on the best show/side by making his actors bereft of the most basic mechanism/relationships and then making them pick fights and maintaining a steely demeanor in the face of the magnificent Woody Harrelson‘s (as the noble Sheriff Willoughby) consequential revelation (one of the best scenes ever), only for Francis McDormand (as Mildred Hayes) to reconnoiter the gamut, stretch the acting range with Sam Rockwell (as Jason Dixon) pulling a redemption card out of his sleeve when there is no redemption card left to be pulled out. Also, Frances McDormand plays a woman who refuses gloweringly to back down no matter what the odds are, not even when it can easily be foretold that the film will be conferred with accolades and controversy in equal doses and that is what indeed happened after the release of Missouri.
What followed was an inundation of similar campaigning, not just in the US but worldwide, similar media was used to raise voices against injustice, and billboards were set up just like how they were by Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, against much resistance and removal of the billboards by the authorities, but that would not hinder or hold back this new form of activism.
Protestors in Florida manifested dissent and words of demurral were set up high, calling the authorities to attention*:
‘Slaughtered in School’, ‘And Still No Gun Control?’, ‘How Come, Marco Rubio?– In response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida
Additionally, three billboards and banners were set up outside Malta marking the four-month anniversary of the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.*
‘A Journalist Killed. No Justice.’, ‘A Country Robbed. No Justice.’, and ‘No Resignations. No Justice.’– #OccupyJustice
Similar show of protest could be seen at the city of Bristol, UK where a mural was erected depicting three billboards, protesting against the non-funding of the NHS, and Justice4Grenfell put up electronic screens on vans, being driven all over London in response to the Grenfell Tower fire. On February 22, 2018, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, protested against the inaction of the UN’s role within the Syrian Civil War.*
Three billboards were set up outside the United Nations building in New York, challenging the impuissant of the intergovernmental organization that claims to maintain international peace and security and whatnot, but history has shown that the (ostensible) unbiased and even-handed establishment is being run by just a few, the same lot that is being protested against:
500,000 Dead in Syria’, ‘And still no action?*– Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations
Similar on March 1, demonstrations were held in Los Angeles around the time of the 2018 Oscars, by conservative street artist Sabo, on March 8, 2018, in downtown Pristina, Kosovo; at the March for Our Lives gun safety rallies across the US
Coming back to the profound film. Missouri is brutal, tragic, funny, moving, with a surge of raw power running through its veins, Three Billboards is a film showcasing humanity at its most fraught (also by magnificently photographed images of wide-open spaces and the insides of rooms where the only source of light is the sunbeam coming in through the window and the reflection dancing with blades of the fan – the general composition of a scene by cinematographer Ben Davis, and the places built for the actors to perform are brilliantly made to look and feel like how McDonagh wants his film to appear and affect his audience) and how we try to hide true emotions with the help of various facade, which includes the film being seriously playful and extremely clever and tragic in a most exclusive way(s), as if no other movie has explored the scene on the swings or when Rockwell’s Dixon (a revelatory and performance by Rockwell) says “my m’ma” and immediately corrects himself with the body language (stumbles backwards); “my mama“. That is some exceptional timing and reaction to the script.
That is far from the truth; other films have explored such designs but never this way. Never with so many coincidences, in a picture where the characters grow and develop in front of our eyes and in the confinement of 105 minutes run-time; no small feat trying to flesh mere volatile profiles to become fully human, however leaving some with calling the action of Dixon, making his previous bigotry ineffectual and in turn, mitigating the powerful stance of Mildred’s character. But that’s just something that the hardened critic has analyzed, claiming the character of Rockwell to be “altogether offensive“, without any redemption, a precinct on fire or not, director McDonagh’s attempts mishandling and outdated, and also that the tropes of such a narrative are now unfashionable. Well, to each his/her own; with the film being called one of the top ten of 2017 by the American Film Institute.
A must watch. Even though it’s an Oscar favorite, that doesn’t lessen its allure; #timesUp or #metoo or #thisisnotachurch or #putitwhereitbelongs or #whathave you
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