So sharply written that it cuts, the third movie from award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh is a dramedy that starts with cleverness and wit, then opens up into something truthfully human. Aptly titled, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, features superb, lyrical dialogue so good that every single cast member, no matter how little screen time, gives a superb performance. McDormand in particular hasn't been this good since her Oscar-winning turn in Fargo. Yet Three Billboards never seems too clever for its own good. It's a stronger effort than McDonagh's In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths; beneath the sparkling verbiage are genuine, complex emotions.
There's hope here -- and love -- but also hate, rage, and grief, just like life. They're are all mixed up in a most bracing way. At the same time, the movie tackles things like murder, cancer, and racism, but never in a way that might seem obvious or pandering. It's not a movie about suspense or solutions; things are deliberately messy in this world, even if McDonagh presents them in a pin-neat manner. Blessed with pitch-perfect cinematography and production design, the movie offers many great scenes and no bad ones. But nothing quite prepares you for the final scene, a thoughtful, human moment that should resonate for some time.