I often worry about overselling a movie. If I love a movie, I tend to really love it and that can lead me to be very effusive in my praise. I’m always kind of afraid that someone will read my review, go to a movie expecting a mind-blowing masterpiece and come out disappointed. The struggle to moderate my feelings has never been harder than with this movie. This movie is a full-stop masterpiece. That’s really the long & short of it. The cast is astoundingly great. Frances McDormand leads the cast with the kind of intense, nuanced performance that no one else could have given. Sam Rockwell, a criminally overlooked character actor I’ve always loved, honestly gives his best performance as a racist, unstable cop. Woody Harrelson is perhaps as good as he’s ever been as well; I always worry that he’s going to fall back on schtick and then he always exceeds my expectations and this performance is both an effective comedic and dramatic performance. Caleb Landry Jones (a young actor I love more and more every time I see him), stalwart character actors John Hawkes & Peter Dinklage and rising talent Lucas Hedges all give wonderful supporting performances; that’s praise of the highest order – actually managing to register and be memorable in a supporting role in a movie where McDormand, Rockwell & Harrelson are all operating at the top of their game is near miraculous. But the cast here is really perfect down to the ground. Sandy Martin is incredibly good in a role that has only a few scenes as Rockwell’s mother. A young actress named Samara Weaving is outstanding in a role as John Hawke’s young girlfriend; she has somewhere just a bit over ten lines, but she’s gut-bustingly funny but also very real. And a word for the haunting score by Carter Burwell, a minimal, but evocative masterpiece. Of course, McDonagh’s amazing screenplay and direction can’t be praised enough. The performances are brilliant, but this isn’t a case of great actors making great characters out of a sub-par, or even somewhat above-par, screenplay; the characters are real & vivid in the dialogue itself which is sharp, cutting, hilarious and hearbreaking. This film neatly manages the balance of hilarious dark humor and absolutely devastating sorrow. I laughed out loud a lot, often while cringing; I cringed a lot without laughing too; I sighed heavily a lot in reaction to the pain and suffering I was seeing; and, yes, I downright cried without shame. Three Billboards is the best 2017 film I’ve seen; there are quite a few I still haven’t managed to track down yet: Call Me By Your Name; I, Tonya; & The Post are the highest profile, but if they beat out Three Billboards, they’re going to have to go a very, very long way. Hell, if 2018 wants to produce a better movie, it’s going to have work at it a lot. Three Billboards is arresting, brilliant, deeply moving. What a movie. What a movie. 4 stars.
tl;dr – a basically perfect film that’s a masterclass in acting & writing; a full-stop masterpiece that is brilliant in every way and deeply, deeply moving. 4 stars.