Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was quite wonderful on every level, terrifically written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Frances McDormand in particular (for whom he said he wrote the script) is absolutely great here, a tour-de-force performance of a woman with unrelenting determination, my favorite female role this year so far. It’s also a very good year for Woody Harrelson. I suspect he could get a Best Actor nomination for LBJ and also Best Supporting Actor for this. He’s good enough in Three Billboards, although Sam Rockwell has a more attention-getting role as a truly dim-witted cop. But then, all the actors here are spot-on, from the main supporting roles like Zeljko Ivanek and Peter Dinklage to the lesser ones like Sandy Martin as Rockwell's scene-stealing momma. I'll stop there, since I could end up naming everyone.
(By the way, I’m a big admirer of Martin McDonagh, going back to his successful playwrighting career, notably the great The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which I saw at the Mark Taper Forum with Chris Pyne in the lead role. McDonagh won an Oscar for his short Six Shooter, and got an Academy nomination for his screenplay of In Bruges. And his most-recent Seven Psychopaths was terrific. However, his combination of extremely funny and somewhat violent have meant that his films haven't had the success of his plays, but they're so smart with vibrant dialogue and rich characters. So, it was terrific seeing him make a movie that perhaps may get reach the level of the Fargo box office, with which it has a sensibility in common – oddly, also with Frances McDormand.)
This trailer likely has material you haven't seen in TV ads or the movie theaters ("likely" as in you haven't), since it's the online R-rated "red band" version. It does a solid job giving a sense of the movie, though focuses more on the anger and violence -- all of which certainly drives the film but is not its tone. The movie isn't about a vigilante tracking down The Guilty, but rather an unrelenting, pissed-off woman who wants justice and for those in a position to help to do their jobs. And more to the point, it's very funny.
Darkest Hour tells the story of England in the days on the edge of World War II, as Europe is falling, Winston Churchill has been made England's new Prime Minister, and the country is next in Germany's sights. It’s really well-done -- a bit talky, but hey, it’s Churchill so it’s great tall. But what leaps out is how absolutely Gary Oldman is as Churchill. Yes, Gary Oldman. And behind the strength of his acting, he has some of the best makeup I’ve ever seen for a real-life character. Oldman is near-unrecognizable, you often swear you're watching a 70-year-old man, yet the makeup is totally natural and wondering when Oldman will enter the film and what role he'll play.) What's particularly impressive about the film, as well, as that we know the resolution -- England did not fall, after all -- but the movie makes it gripping by showing so well how perilously close that was. Interestingly, too, and I don't know how intentional this was -- perhaps not at all, though perhaps very much so -- but very subtly towards the end, there is a connection to today about the idea of "resistance" and fighting back against a tyrant.
Here's the trailer. And yes, this is Gary Oldman