Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Year: 2018

Certificate: 15

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson

Is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri Any Good?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is Martin McDonagh’s fourth film, and despite having big successes previously with movies like In Bruges, this has by far been his most successful. And you can really see why. While still managing to retain his love for the blackest of black humour and funny yet gruesome violence, the film magnificently walks the tightrope between genius writing and out-right bad taste.

What sets Three Billboard’s apart from McDonagh’s previous efforts is how he manages to offset all this with a genuinely moving and heart-felt story which is spectacularly brought to life in the performance by Frances McDormand which made her become one of the most talked about stars during awards season.

If you’ve enjoyed McDonagh’s previous work, then you are bound to love this. If however you’ve always had issues with his movies, don’t expect to find that much different tonally with Three Billboards.

"This didn't put an end to shit, you fucking retard; this is just the fucking start. Why don't you put that on your Good Morning Missouri fucking wake up broadcast, bitch?"

Three Billboards Ending And Did They Kill Him?

As the film comes to a close, Dixon has managed to get DNA from a suspect who it seems is very unlikely is the killer, but who may have committed a rape anyway. As the movie closes they are in a car, driving towards Idaho to kill the man, when Mildren confesses to Dixon that she set the police station on fire, something that he already knew, before showing their reservations about what they’re about to do.

As the movie ends we’re left on a cliffhanger about whether they killed him or not. Some people have speculated that there could be an after-credits scene, but anyone who stayed hoping for this will have been sadly disappointed as there isn’t one! The film’s ending is great even without this however. It is Martin McDonagh’s way of showing us it is not about revenge, but more about Mildred’s grief and her battle against a police department who were inept, corrupt and not even trying, which she has one.

Whether you think the characters hunt down the man is open to how you think they’ve changed in the film. Their final conversation in the car however gives a hint that they’ve realised that unsubstantiated vigilante action is perhaps falling too much into an eye-for-an-eye way of action, and that they’ve already got as much resolution as they will ever be able to.

CGI Deer Scene In Three Billboards

Despite the film generally being created to the highest standard, with some of the finest performances of the year as well as breathtaking cinematography in the shots of the billboards burning or the one shot of the violent attack by Woody Harrelson's character, there is one moment that sticks out like a sore thumb. The deer.

In once scene Mildred delivers a downbeat speed to a passing deer near the billboards. Despite being a great performance by France McDormand, the deer looks incredibly unnatural and fake. Surprisingly however, the deer isn’t actually CGI in the sense of being digital created, but the problem seems to be a poorly green screened real deer who then is poorly rendered into the shot with some very unnatural feeling lighting and positioning. The deer in question is called Becca and resides at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Ashville.

Despite being a beautiful scene which gives Mildred a contemplative moment to revel in nature's beauty, the execution of it is distractingly poor. Although DVD remasters can feel unnecessary and detrimental (Star Wars fans certainly may take issue), hopefully one day this eye-sore can be fixed.

The Backlash to Three Billboards and Problematic Criticims

Despite Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri generally garnering positive reviews on its release, there has been a swift and passionate backlash of criticism that finds the movie very problematic. In an era of the #MeToo movement and a tragic underrepresentation of women in Hollywood, you could think that a film starring a 60 year old female actor in a role where she is a strong and nuanced badass would be universally embraced. Despite many applauding Three Billboards for that, more have found issues with how it deals with race.

The movie is set in a town with both a lazy and corrupt police force, featuring Sam Rockwell’s character who is an overt racist and who has even tortured black people. In later scenes, Mildred’s friend Denise, a black woman, is harassed and arrested as an attack on her. Although McDonagh portrays this racism as a bad thing, many people have taken against the film for the lazy way it addresses this issue, as we never really hear from the black characters or even see the person who was tortured, lessening the impact of such violent actions

The biggest sticking point for many is the ending, in which Mildred and Dixon team up to search for her daughter’s killer. It is easy to see this as a forgiveness for his previous actions, despite it being incredibly unrealistic that his deep-rooted racism just disappeared overnight and he is now a redeemed hero. McDonagh has stated he is in no way supposed to be seen as that. For many, despite Dixon’s actions, he is still far from forgiven, but merely pitied by the end as disgusting man who we see a glint of hope for, but only after he’s reached rock bottom.

Sure, it is not the best dissection of modern day racism, but at the same time neither is it intended to be. That’s why we have brilliant films like Get Out.

Three Billboards Budget & Box Office

One of the biggest measures of the success of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, as with any film, is the measure of its budget to its box office takings. Despite being a very high profile movie featuring some big name actors, the budget was relatively small at only $12 million.

Due to its great critical acclaim, Three Billboards has managed to gross $53 million in the United States and Canada and over $91 million from other countries, making a mammoth worldwide total of almost $150 million. This has been one of the film’s biggest endorsements, with Martin McDonagh’s often niche dark comedy managing to transfer well for a mainstream audience.

The films success was not instant however, having made only $322k in its opening limited release weekend, before sneaking up the charts in subsequent weeks and then later being hugely expanded after its Golden Globes win.

"Kiss the girls for me, and know that I've always loved you... And maybe I'll see ya again if there's another place, and if there ain't... Well, it's been heaven knowing you."

The Genre Of Three Billboards

One of the most peculiar things about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is its genre, or at least the difficulty for it to be easily categorised into any one. On one hand, it is a horrific story about rape, murder and corruption and the grief that a mother feels as she arduously tries to battle it in a town which is full of bigotry and racism, as we see the depiction of some shocking violence.

On the other hand, there is comedy, jokes and ridiculous moments which manage to garner more laughs than your average comedy. What results therefore is a somewhat black comedy, however even that categorisation is somewhat limited. We are not given a film that is merely full of dark jokes about race or death. McDonagh’s film manages to pivot between genres in each moment, often occupying a thrilling revenge story, before depicting some hilarious stupidity, before settling into a touching scene about family. What results is a film which manages to feel incredibly unique.

Is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Based On A True Story?

Although Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is cannot be called a real life story, but instead a fictional creation of Martin McDonagh, there was a significant real life event that inspired him to write in. When 20 years prior he was on a Greyhound bus towards Texas on an American road trip, he saw a couple of billboards in the middle of nowhere in the Deep South, which he described as a “raging, painful message calling out the cops about a crime”. This was an image the resonated with him so much, that years later he imagined up Mildred as the person who put them up.

Since the film’s release, there has been various reports of people who have previously taken action similar to those shown in the film, such as Marianne Asher-Chapman who has been termed ‘the real life version’ of Frances McDormand’s character, after he daughter was killed in Texas in 2003 and she petitioned the Morgan County Sheriff's Department to take action. While many have also seen comparisons with Kathy Page, who was raped and strangled to death in 1991 in Texas, whose father has been putting up billboards slamming the police department ever since.

Not only is there historic precedent for this kind of action, but many campaigners are also now using it as inspiration for future action. Whether it is the anti-gun movement in America or the Justice for Grenfell campaign in London, many protesters are adopting the distinctive look and style of the three billboards for their own agendas.

" I think you've got the makings of being a really good cop, Jason, and you know why? Because, deep down, you're a decent man. I know you don't think I think that, but I do, dipshit."

Who Was The Killer In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri?

One of the best things about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is that we never find out who the killer was. It is the ultimate way of Martin McDonagh showing that it doesn’t matter who did it, the importance of the film is Mildred’s grief and her battle against the police department.

Despite Dixon managing to get DNA from a suspicious man who appears to be bragging about a rape that he committed around the time, it does not match DNA found on Angela’s body and the man was overseas on military duty at the time. We therefore never know if he is the killer, and despite Dixon’s hunch and the suspect’s vile personality, it seems that the evidence in no way indicates he did it. There is still always a possibility left open however, but Dixon feels like he knows for sure that he must have committed some other rape, even if it was not Angela’s.