Phantom Thread

Year: 2017
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps

Written by Dave Curtis

On the 11th of May 1997 one the greatest footballers, Eric Cantona played his last competitive game of football for Manchester United. At the end of that season he announced his surprise retirement at the relatively young age of 30 years old. Having won countless trophies and awards he decided to call it a day because he no longer had the passion for the game. I was gutted. He was a hero of mine. My favourite player, I could watch him play for hours. The thought of not being able watch him play the game I loved for the team I supported was unthinkable. Of course over time I grew up, I got over it. Other favourite players came and went. I got used to that feeling. I thought nothing would surprise me anymore.

Just over 20 years later on the 20th June 2017 it was announced that one of greatest actors of their generation was making one more film before retiring. Daniel Day-Lewis, the winner of 3 ‘Best Actor Oscars’ appeared to have fallen out of love with his profession. It took me back to that day in 1997 when King Eric hung up his boots, back to way I felt when I was 12 years old. Back to that feeling that I had in my gut that day; disappointment and sadness. So be prepared, this may be the last 130 minutes to watch a new film from a real life icon. Day-Lewis may not have done as many films as De Niro and Pacino but the standard of his work can’t be questioned.

‘Phantom Thread’ is another team up from director Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis, the pairing that gave us ‘There Will Be Blood’. The premise is pretty simple. Set in the 1950’s post-war London, well renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) who are at the very centre of the British fashion industry, dress the elite with the styles of The House of Woodcock. Reynolds lives a bachelor life style, many women have come and gone until he comes across a young waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life.

As always, a PT Anderson film is an experience. His work has always stood out, for better or worse his films are always talked about. He is a master craftsman whose attitude and work has always had a whiff of an older generation filmmaker about himself, but yet he is always on the edge of doing something new and different. Here with ‘Phantom Thread’ he has created a very British gothic romance which is extremely funny. The film is layered in rich visceral storytelling which uses every tool of cinematic magic to add a sense of wonder about it.

Like the suits he gets to wear, Daniel Day-Lewis instantly stands out. He never goes into a project where he isn’t completely prepared. He embodies every character he plays. This is a less bombastic performance compared to Bill Cutting in ‘Gangs Of New York’ or Daniel Plainview in ‘There Will be Blood’. Reynolds is much more soft spoken and a refined man, but is he also very fierce and always straight to the point. He is very much a man who likes things done his way and on his terms, like the way he works or his breakfast routine. Another Oscar nomination is high praise and nobody can question if he deserves it or not. Very few actors can portray an array of different emotions with the way they look or the way they handle themselves quite like Daniel Day-Lewis can.

As good as Daniel Day-Lewis is, it’s the woman in Reynolds Woodcock’s life that really make ‘Phantom Thread’ stand out. Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps both hold their own against one of cinema’s finest. Krieps a relative newcomer shines as Alma, Woodcock latest muse. The evolution of Alma from the quiet waitress to Reynolds main lady is handled beautifully in her hands. It’s strange that her performance hasn’t attracted more award talk. Unlike Manville, who has been nominated in a number of different awards including best supporting actress at this year’s Oscars. Manville plays Reynolds sister Cyril; the one woman is his life that he listens to. Manville brings a touch of class and heart to a character that could quite easily be portrayed as a stone cold cartoon villain.

Sight and sound are equally important and thanks to Johnny Greenwood’s score (also has a Oscar nom) this film is given life that many films just miss out on. His work here not only enriches each character, it provokes emotions that enhance the visuals to another level.

When it comes down to it, ‘Phantom Thread’ is surprisingly quotable, cinematically very pleasing and a joy to watch. The cast all share strong chemistry and with a little help from Johnny Greenwood, Paul Thomas Anderson has created another excellent film which sits very nicely with his back catalogue.

If this is Daniel Day-Lewis’ last ever film, then I will happily watch his old films with a smile on my face, just like I do with old Eric Cantona clips on YouTube, but I do hope he changes his mind. He is just too good. He has loads left in the tank.

Dave’s Rating: 9/10

Advertisements

The Cloverfield Paradox

Year: 2018
Directed By: Julius Onah
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang

Written by Fiona Underhill 

So, yesterday (Sunday) afternoon/evening, excitement in the USA was reaching fever pitch. It was the Super Bowl, which means even if you’re not interested in sport, you still get half-time entertainment and perhaps even more thrillingly – trailers for big upcoming ‘event’ movies. Speculation about which trailers we were getting was rife as always. Then came a tweet from director Ava Duvarney saying: “#FilmTwitter is going to explode tonight. Something is coming that I can hardly believe. Lawd. History in the making.” So of course, Twitter then went into overdrive, theorising that maybe Ava was being announced as a new Star Wars director, among other things. Well, it turned out to be a trailer for the new ‘Cloverfield’ movie, which people thought might be coming out in a month or so. However, the end of the trailer stated: “On Netflix after the game.” This was a genius marketing move – suddenly anticipation was in overdrive and everyone was going to stay up late (depending on your time zone) to watch the movie straight after the Super Bowl.

I have huge affection for the original ‘Cloverfield’. I love found-footage/hand-held camera genre films including ‘The Blair Witch Project’, ‘Chronicle’, ‘Trollhunter’ and ‘Monsters’. ‘Cloverfield’ is an extremely good example and follows a group of young people hanging out a party when an enormous alien monster attacks the city. All went quiet in the Cloverfield universe until 2016, when suddenly a new film: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ was announced and then released a month later. A very different film – a thriller about a woman trying to escape a bunker and her captor and it was only tied to the original film right at the end, when it was clear there had been an alien invasion on earth. Getting even less notice this time meant there was less time to theorise about how this new film would tie to both, however we were promised this would explain the events in the original film.

‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is almost entirely set in space, on a ship called the Cloverfield. The crew’s mission is to find a new energy source for earth, where it is rapidly running out (there are scenes of power cuts and petrol shortages at the start). The crew is multi-national; there is Brit Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), American Kiel (David Oyelowo), German Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl), Brazilian Monk (John Ortiz), Russian Volkov (Aksel Hennie), Chinese Tam (Zhang Ziyi) and Irish Mundy (Chris O’Dowd). I got quite emosh seeing an Irish flag on the arm of an astronaut, even if it is just science fiction. The international characters and cast is one of the more positive aspects of this film. I really liked the way the crew spoke to Tam in Mandarin, rather than it being presumed that she would just learn English. Tensions on the ship are heightened by the fact that war is brewing on earth, particularly between Schmidt and Volkov. The pressure is very much on the crew for their experiment with the ‘Shepherd’ to succeed, to prevent total chaos on earth.

However, things go wrong when an enormous power surge destroys many of the systems on the ship, including communications with earth. However, on further investigation, it is found that it’s not just that they can’t communicate with earth; in fact the earth has disappeared altogether. More strange things start happening on the ship – screams are heard from inside a wall and there they discover Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki), who has been ‘splinched’ into the pipes and wires embedded into the wall. Jenson knows the whole crew (apart from Tam), but they do not recognise her. A crew member starts to feel unwell, with his eye acting very weirdly and then he has a classic ‘Alien’ moment with things exploding from his body. Another crew member’s arm gets severed in an accident and then starts moving and communicating independently. All of these odd and humorous incidents are the main strengths of this film. It gradually dawns on these scientists that they have moved to another dimension and they set about trying to get back to their own. 

The final third of this film is when things start to fall apart. The film becomes quite boring and predictable and much of the odd humour gets lost. The way that they try to tie this film to the original ‘Cloverfield’ at the end makes absolutely no sense and will leave fans of the franchise (including me) quite angry. It is a shame because the cast of this film is insanely good – it was a joy to see Ziyi again and Mbatha-Raw and Oyelowo are two of my favourite actors. However, this film did not tie together at all and feels like it has been hooked onto the Cloverfield universe as an afterthought, motivated by marketing.

It was a shame to see the hype to backlash cycle boiled down to just a few short hours on this Super Bowl Sunday. The marketing was ingenious, but the film itself could not live up to the ‘event’. I hope that more thought is put into the next film in this franchise and someone who cares about actually tying a coherent universe together is behind it. A let down for fans of the first two films.

Fiona’s Rating: 6.5 out of 10

 

maxresdefault-9.jpg

12 Strong

Year: 2018
Directed by: Nicolai Fuglsig
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, William Fichtner, Rob Riggle

Written by Tom Sheffield

If you’ve read some of my reviews on here before, you’ll know I’m a sucker for films based on true events, such as ‘Deepwater Horizon‘, ‘The Founder‘, and ‘Jackie‘ to name just a few I’ve written about for JUMPCUT. So with ’12 Strong’ riding into cinemas recently I thought I’d add another under my belt!

Following the devastating 9/11 terror attacks, a highly trained team comprising of CIA paramilitary offices and US forces, ‘Operational Detachment Alpha 595’ (ODA 595) flew out to Afghanistan to begin a secret and highly dangerous mission to fight back against Taliban forces. Once there, the task force must work alongside General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance to push the Taliban out of Mazar-e-Sharif for good.

Hemsworth takes the lead as Captain Mitch Nelson, who was just about to start a role working behind the desk in an office rather than on the front lines before the terror attacks. It goes without saying that Michael Shannon gives another strong performance, despite his character getting less screen time than probably deserved. Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes, Thad Luckinbill, and the rest of the squad also deliver believable and fantastic performances, often resorting to humour and wise cracks to lighten tense and serious situations, however these don’t feels shoehorned in and are delivered like genuine banter amongst brothers in arms. William Fichtner only appears briefly in a handful of scenes as Colonel Mulholland, but he certainly makes an impression as he sports a shiny bald head (which I found very distracting!).

Fuglsig may not be a director you recognise the name of, but there’s a very high chance you’ve seen some of his previous work, which has mostly been commercials. One that might ring a bell is for Sony Bravia in which 250,000 colourful bouncing balls were let loose on the largest hill in San Francisco. It would seem producer Jerry Bruckheimer took a risk offering the director’s chair to Fuglsig, given his lack of experience on feature films, but all in all I think he did a reasonably good job on such a demanding film. The direction is good and it has a familiar feel to war films we’ve seen before, which is by no means a bad thing.

Lorne Balfe provides the accompanying score for the film and does an incredible job of keeping you in the moment. There are some truly heart racing scenes in amongst some slower, and quite frankly boring, moments but Balfe’s score fits in so perfectly to whatever is going on that it keeps you engaged. Another winner from Balfe!

’12 Strong’ has got a lot of heart and, from what I’ve read, doesn’t steer too far from the truth for dramatic effect, unlike other films based on true events, and it’s the solid cast at the forefront of this film that really make it what it is. It’s a real slow burner that never really has it’s BIG moment, but it does well to deliver edge-of-your-seat tension. The big, slow build up to the third act is definitely worth it as we witness the events that lead to the mission’s conclusion. I highly recommend seeking this out at the cinema if it sounds like your kind of film.

Tom’s Rating: 6.5/10

Molly’s Game

Year: 2018
Directed by: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong

Written by Jessica Peña

Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut boasts an excellent script that enables a stellar performance from Jessica Chastain. ‘Molly’s Game’ is a calculating, fast-paced film about the woman media outlets dubbed, “The Poker Princess,” Molly Bloom. A former Olympic level prospect, Bloom endured a devastating ski fall in the 2002 Winter Olympics qualifications that led her to rest that dream. Upon moving from Colorado to Los Angeles, she works at a bar, then soon gets offered to work as a secretary for a real estate developer, an arrogant  man who refuses to eat “poor people bagels,” when Molly is ordered to fetch him breakfast. Invited to help run his poker games, Molly is enthralled with the slopes of the game and the power to seize her life, getting into deep pockets of legal trouble and an eventual FBI investigation.

Sorkin has penned several iconic personalities into big screen scripts such as Charlie Wilson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs. There’s something captivating when it comes to his approach with his latest subject, Molly Bloom. Sorkin immediately fell in love with how competent and thrilling Bloom’s life story was. Based on the telling autobiographical memoir, ‘Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker’, Sorkin uses his penmanship to dramatize challenging situations in Bloom’s real life to fit a very smart plotline. The film tells of Bloom’s brushes with A-list actors, studio heads, politicians, and star athletes, as they gathered into her poker games to challenge their luck. From the first poker game with her boss, he clearly disapproves of her dress and it leads her to refresh her wardrobe with the hefty tips she begins to earn from the games. She gets a taste for the entrepreneurship influence and being her own boss. We start to see more dominance in Molly Bloom and she becomes an effective player herself.

Jessica Chastain delivers such a distinct and powerful performance that it completely blows you away. We see her utilize the lovely, but strong force of nature that enabled her past personas from ‘A Most Violent Year’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Chastain is infectious as Molly Bloom. Even in a smoky room full of billionaire men playing poker, it is her that demands the most respect. Her role encapsulates a stunning reality to a woman’s perseverance and wit.

The men of the industry, the government, and from her own family, cripple Molly’s personal gain in more ways than one. It’s easy to notice how she’s come so far in her profession driven by the illusion of “power over powerful men,”  She doesn’t notice this until the end, though. Thing is, it’s not the sole purpose for her. This is a story about her taking control of her own life. Mistakes come back to haunt you and it’s not always an easy hurdle to get over. From an early life of being pushed too hard by her father, Bloom carries a weight on her that refuses to be seen. The dynamic she has with her estranged father, played respectively by Kevin Costner, plays a huge role in her life. Sorkin writes in aspects of gender politics that make for some good commentary on this. Bloom’s unlikely heroism in the film peeks through in moments of dignity and how true she is to not only the rules of the game, but those of her own.

Idris Elba gives us such a solid and consoling presence. We see him star alongside Chastain as her highly competent, and at first very reluctant, lawyer, Charlie Jaffey. He advises Bloom throughout her entire legal case, never straying away to tell her the realities of her situation. He encourages her to seek vindication with honesty- to be on open book to the feds with information. Nothing in the world, not even her cleared name, would convince Bloom to provide the identities of the big names who sat at her poker tables every week. Chaffey is at first very cautious in meeting her. He assumes she is a definite loss of a case, considering her implications with the Russian mob. His relationship with Bloom becomes confident as they deliver the best lines to the other and begin to establish trust. It makes for some entertaining discourse, thanks to Sorkin’s ability to single out tension and give it a spotlight.

‘Molly’s Game’ is a film that deals a lot with Bloom’s strength and resilience in a way that finishes with redeeming effect. The only disadvantage is its 140 minute runtime. Sometimes you feel as though Sorkin could have cut out a scene or two. It’s nonetheless gripping throughout. Sorkin’s first time feature helming the director’s chair is a solid and clever venture. In an interview, Sorkin himself called the project a “triumphant collaboration.” His dialogue leads its characters to take control completely, especially with Molly’s integrity at stake. Sorkin doesn’t disappoint in his debut. ‘Molly’s Game’ is a film that’s very self aware of its characters with clever plays in dialogue and a hefty payoff.

Jessica’s Rating: 7.5 out of 10

 

Image result for mollys game

Darkest Hour

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

Winston Churchill is as famous a British Prime Minister as you can get. Taking control of the country in a time of grave need and facing imminent destruction, he had the unenviable task of inspiring his country into believing the war was not lost. What followed is a story of bravery and heroism on the part of the entire UK, who rallied behind Churchill and his unrivalled skill with language. As a character, Churchill is as alluring as any other. The task, this time, falls to Gary Oldman. To say Oldman gives a great performance in ‘Darkest Hour’ is the understatement of the century.

After being reluctantly placed in charge of the UK, succeeding the increasingly ineffectual Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill was given a war to win, in as literal a sense as you can get. As a man without the support of his party, he is left with only his desire and his commitment to serving his country at all costs. Spanning Churchill’s tumultuous first 9 days in office (yes, 9 days), ‘Darkest Hour’ shows even a man brimming with confidence can be brought to his knees.

Before addressing the obvious in greater detail, ‘Darkest Hour’ is a great film. I’m surprised I was as invested as I was. To be political for just a minute, I am phenomenally disenfranchised with the idea of Great British Values and how great this country is considering the UK is on the verge of irreversible self-destruction. And yet, ‘Darkest Hour’ is a film built on that; built on rallying the country to believe in itself, and I couldn’t help but be swept up in the commotion.

Joe Wright is a visual director with hits and very big misses (‘Atonement’ and ‘Pan’, respectively). I’m happy to report he has another hit with ‘Darkest Hour’. Using flashy camera movements, whether slow zooms or tracking shots or crane shots around the Houses of Parliament, ‘Darkest Hour’ is very enjoyable to watch. One particular shot made me audibly say ‘wow’ in the cinema, where the camera tracks along a bombing run and the destroyed ground before seamlessly transitioning to a dead soldier’s face covered in dirt. It’s the kind of shot that leaves an impression and won’t leave my mind for a while. There are some more creative shots that feel somewhat unnecessary (more than a few scenes of Churchill alone in a room surrounded by a frame of total darkness to convey his isolation within his party were slightly too blunt), but the effect of the film as a whole isn’t lost. Churchill faced war within his party as much as he did with Adolf Hitler, something Wright managed to very successfully portray.

Now, here comes the point that everyone knows is coming, but it needs to be discussed – Gary Oldman is a complete revelation. Someone could make the wild claim that Joe Wright and company literally reanimated Winston Churchill’s corpse and I’d genuinely think about it for a second. It’s a complete transformation visually, physically, and aurally. Admittedly, Churchill is a meaty character to take on and it demands someone going all-in on the performance to deliver it truthfully, and Oldman does that and then some.

Churchill’s famous speeches are treated like action set-pieces no matter where they’re delivered. Two speeches delivered in the Houses of Parliament, one delivered to a small group of politicians, one delivered to his war cabinet, and one on the radio that is bathed in the red glow of betrayal and fear. Every speech is accompanied by a score that only accentuates every speech’s intentions. Beyond his speeches, Oldman delivers every line with the same energy and vigour as a speech, a personal favourite of which is his cry “you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!”

Gary Oldman’s career is full of tremendous highs, and for my money, his Churchill may be the highest of the lot. It’s the performance of a lifetime from a true great, and he is deserving of every award he has already received and is sure to receive over the coming weeks.

‘Darkest Hour’ is a brilliant piece of rousing British cinema. For best results, watch it as a double bill with 2017’s ‘Dunkirk.’ ‘Darkest Hour’ works on so many levels from cinematography to screenplay to its performances (Kristin Scott Thomas is terrific as Churchill’s wife, Clementine), but a film like this lives and dies by its lead. Gary Oldman carries the film on his shoulders and marches it victoriously to its conclusion.

Rhys’ Rating: 8.5/10

mv5bndk0mzy5nzqymf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjuzoda1ndm-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

The Commuter

Year: 2017
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill

Written by Chris Gelderd

From the off, this is better than the 2015 Collet-Serra / Neeson debut ‘Non-Stop’. The whole film is more restrained, as it can be, and suits Neeson much more than recent offerings, taking into account his age and the daft logic of these films. Basically, Liam Neeson does ‘Murder On The Orient Express’. Sound good? Then you’ll enjoy this guff.

Think ‘Speed’, blended with ‘MOTOE’, with a hint of ‘Strangers On A Train’ and you’ll have the dumbest Agatha Christie / Alfred Hitchcock modern-based thriller ever. First Collet-Serra had Neeson save a passenger airline, now we are on the ground on a passenger train across New York. It’s 100mins of everything you’ve come to expect from our Irish pensioner.

The fact the whole film is much more…grounded, I think is the word… makes it more enjoyable. It’s marketed as a thriller and actually plays out like one for a good hour or so before it rewards us with that over-the-top, laws-of-physics defying action finale and cliché plot twist. Yeah it’s been done before, we probably know who the villains are, but we didn’t expect a masterpiece. If you did, then you’ve come to watch the wrong Liam Neeson film.

He’s got the Academy Award nominations. He’s got the critical and fan acclaim for his entertaining and equally powerful movies. He’s been a Jedi Master, trained Batman and been a talking tree monster. Now he’s having fun in his prime by taking down bad-guys as the “ordinary man” who happens to always have a particular set of skills in a variety of “ordinary situations”. Today he sells life insurance, is a former cop, and can’t leave a train without his family being killed if he fails his task. But he’s not going to let that happen – cue the chaos.

Well, no, first, put the chaos on hold and actually let the thriller unfold. It’s a well paced and interesting set-up that takes it’s time to introduce us to the key players in a clever opening credits sequence and then doesn’t rush getting us into the main story. When it arrives, then it’s time to focus and watch it unfurl. But, yes, it does get a little slow during the mid-section because it literally just is Neeson stalking the aisle looking for his target, throwing as many curve balls and clues and twists as possible to keep us and him guessing. It hits a point where nothing seems to really happen for a long time and we are stuck padding out the plot until we can move on to the next.

Set in, on and around a packed commuter train for the rest of the movie, it’s simple to follow and Neeson does what he does best – he stalks back and forward, talks angrily on mobile phones, finds suspicious packages and weapons and packs one hell of a punch before disarming people with a charming smile. He’s got so much respect that it’s hard to not enjoy him now in whatever he does, because he puts his all into it and doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel. He knows what you expect and he’ll give it to you.

The action and slow burning “who-dunnit” style tension suits him much more than the god-awful OTT ‘Taken 2’ and ‘Unknown’. He actually doesn’t do too much in the first half that he couldn’t do in real life, and there is a certain hand-to-hand/guitar/axe fist fight that looks pretty damn impressive and Neeson never looks out of his depth doing this.

With support from Patrick Wilson, Vera Famiga and Sam Neill, you know one,none or all of them must be shady, and you’ll probably guess straight away, but maybe you won’t. They are as invested as Neeson in driving the story and taking things seriously, which is good. Apart from that, the time is spent with actors you won’t recognise, which works in the plot’s favour as its these “nobodys” who may hold the key to the puzzle, so we have no idea who it could be, and you’ll be guessing all the way through.

So, yeah. It’s not a game changer at all but it’s one of those decent 100min popcorn action thrillers that will satisfy all those who to watch something of the “best film with Liam Neeson set on a train” genre. Turn your brain off and just have some forgetful fun!

Chris’ Rating: 6.0 out of 10

mv5bmtc0otczmtuymf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzuyodi1mzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777888_al_

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Year: 2018
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes.

Written by Corey Hughes

British-Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh returns to the director seat in emphatic fashion with ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, his third feature film that follows the success of ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths’, a film that alludes to the conflicts of hatred versus empathy, and tolerance versus change. This, in short, is a triumphant outing for McDonagh, and is completely deserving of the tremendous buzz that it has been receiving during this competitive awards season.

7 months after the rape and murder of her teenage daughter, Mildred Hayes, played ruthlessly by Frances McDormand, challenges the local police authority when they fail to find a single culprit responsible for the attack. ‘Raped while dying. And still no arrests? How come, chief Willoughby?’ The three billboards ask a simple question: who is responsible for the death of Mildred Haye’s daughter?

Whilst the film seeks to uncover the mystery surrounding the death of Angela Hayes, this is not a mystery per se. Instead, this is a courageous tale of one mother’s dedication in seeking justice for her daughter, a justice not given to her by the local police department. With a few ‘fuck’ and ‘c**ts’ thrown in. (Yes, I censored myself. I’m not an animal.) This trademark use of explosive, vulgar writing is something that acclaimed writer and director Martin McDonagh is renowned for, and he holds no punches this time ‘round either. McDonagh’s prowess as both a playwright and a cinematic dramatist has resulted in a mesmerising fusion of drama and comedy; a film that is brimming with moments of laughter and melancholy, and a mosaic of compelling characters.

2nd image

At the helm of McDonagh’s piece is Frances McDormand, an actor not known for leading the screen, but more so for her supporting contributions, although that wouldn’t seem the case here. Her portrayal of the tortured Mildred Hayes is a fascinating one: she is not a good person, nor is she a particularly good mother, but what she lacks in manners she makes up for in grit, determination and complete badassery. A mother of a grief-struck son (Lucas Hedges) and a divorcee from an abusive husband (John Hawke), Hayes appears to be in constant battle with herself and those that surround her. Yet despite her fighting, unforgiving nature, she is not immune to emotion – she’s simply a mother seeking justice for her daughter. Whenever she breaks down there is a real sense of devastation, an accomplishment that must be applied to the remarkable talent of McDormand who is able to simultaneously make one laugh or cry. This is simply the perfect role for McDormand, who fits the role like a tightly worn bandana.

As for the rest of the cast, there’s a lot of excitement to be had. Whether it’s Woody Harrelson as the charismatic chief of police and loving father, or Lucas Hedges as the tormented son (a role not too distant from his performance in ‘Manchester by the Sea’), ‘Three Billboards is bursting with compelling characters; all of which given the necessary depth to flourish alongside McDormand’s lead. Yet I feel extra credit needs to be given to the immensely underrated Sam Rockwell, who this time ‘round plays an inexcusably monstrous police officer who embodies the societal anxiety of police brutality and racial prejudice that is far too prevalent in today’s current climate. Yet this totally unsympathetic character is graced with the most compelling arc within the movie, which to some may be an unforgivable decision made by McDonagh. Though, for me, this change in character is justified, a transition that is fuelled by his incompetence as an officer of the law, and by his understandable castigation from his local community. Rockwell captures this sense of divisiveness with ease, by bringing to the fore what could be a career-best performance.

At the heart of it all, McDonagh’s film is a hilarious, raunchy and poignant story of a mother’s unrelenting desire for justice. But more so, it is an intriguing psychological analysis of one’s response to tragedy, which in this case, is one fuelled by anarchic rage.

This is an utterly fantastic piece of work by McDonagh.

Corey’s Rating: 9.5 / 10