We know that filmmakers put some of the best scenes into their trailers. In fact, when it comes to many action films where character and plot are given short shrift and the focus is on fights and chases, once you’ve seen the trailer, you can pretty much skip the film. But there are some trailers that are so compelling that you know immediately that you want to see the film. One such case is the trailer for the black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that was released this past week. It tells you just enough to make you curious for more. It helps that it has two superb actors Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in the lead roles of the mother of a raped and murdered woman and the local police chief.
Zaid Jilani writes about the film’s underlying themes as epitomized by the mother Hayes and the police chief Willoughby.
The clash between Willoughby and Hayes is representative of some of the moral questions at the heart of the debate on criminal justice reform. On the one hand, the viewer wants Hayes to catch her daughter’s killer: Criminal accountability is a bedrock of a just society. But on the other hand, Hayes is so intent on her individual pursuit of justice that she is willing to sacrifice the liberties of innocent bystanders. She tells Willoughby that the ideal solution would be to subject every male in the country to a DNA test, and to kill the person whose DNA is a match for that found on her daughter.
“There’s definitely civil rights laws against that,” Willoughby replied.
The exchange between the two is typical of McDonagh’s dark comedic writing, but it’s also emblematic of the discourse around criminal justice in the United States over the past three decades.
I am planning to see the film and will let you know if it lives up to the trailer or if I have been suckered into paying good money to see a mediocre film. If so, it would not be the first time.