Burning anger at institutional injustice may supercharge this lacerating black comic drama to Oscar victory.
As a grieving mother launches a blistering one woman attack on prejudice and indifference, it’s slap-in-the-face shocking, laugh-out-loud funny, and move-you-to-tears tragic.
In 1996 Frances McDormand won Oscar gold for her role in the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece, Fargo, a similarly violent tale of small town America.
She could easily win another for her sharp, brave and confrontational performance here as Mildred, having already picked up a Golden Globe win and several other awards nominations.
Mildred begins a media campaign to shame the local police dept into properly investigating the murder of her daughter, by hiring three billboards and using them to post a message questioning the head of police.
Played by woody Harrison with dignity and humour, Chief Willoughby is none best pleased. Nor is his stupid, lazy and aggressive deputy. Sam Rockwell is beyond tremendous the younger redneck cop, buckling up his familiar loose style into something tighter and more aggressive.
With the issues of rape and collusion at the heart of the story, it chimes with the outrage of Hollywood’s sex scandal which has resulted in the #MeToo campaign’s response.
Three Billboards has garnered huge support at award ceremonies, such as Bafta where it’s been nominated in nine categories.
And it’s also terrifically entertaining, albeit in a brutal, abrasive and foul-mouthed fashion, with the cast spitting venomous and jaw-dropping dialogue at each other.
Acclaimed playwright turned respected producer, writer and director Martin McDonagh previously made 2008’s wildly entertaining In Bruges, before following up with a career low of 2012’s Seven Psycopaths.
This is his richest and most accomplished work yet, being horrifically bleak but keeping the barest flicker of optimism alive.
A wild trip to the dark heart of gender politics, this is a timely, devastating and magnificent achievement. They should stick that on a billboard.