Many reviewers describe Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri as a dark comedy, indeed the poster borrowed for this review calls it “Darkly Comic”. I don’t think so: it’s an emotional rollercoaster, but one that delivers hyped-up, intensified emotions rather than rich emotional experiences. But it delivers them well.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, the performances by Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell in particular are great. The plot thunders along, twisting and turning with a skill so well honed that it barely registers at the time, and only on reflection after the film closes do you have time to think what the hell?
Because of that, there is a certain detachment: you never get enough time to properly engage with your emotions before you are forced into a contrast. You start to cry, then you are forced to laugh before the tears come; you feel anxious, but elated before fight-or-flight can kick in.
This is a film of extremes: one minute you feel the excruciating pain of a mother who has lost her daughter in such horrible circumstances, the next you laugh at the ridiculous racism and stupidity of Rockwell’s Dixon.
The sheriff is a tragic character, played particularly well by Harrelson. We feel contempt for his apparent red-necked laziness at the start, more Boss Hogg than Tom Bell it seems, but we learn about his complexity, the pain (literal and emotional) he struggles with throughout the film, and end up if not respecting him for it, at least understanding it.
This movie is a demonstration of the art of film making, a great piece of cinematography; whether or not the wild twists make it your cup of tea you will have to decide for yourself.
I give this film: 8.5/10.