Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: the mother of a murdered teenager goes head to head with the local town’s police department. This film tickles and jokes with you then WHAM, punches you in the kidney, again, and again, and again. I’ve never been in a screening where the audience went from rapturous crying-with-laughter straight in to shock, fear, or dread in a split second. Performance-wise, picking out an individual would be unfair as everyone is sublime: Rockwell steals his scenes with superb comic delivery, whereas Harrelson and McDormand show real heart, and damn near everyone else in the top-to-bottom dream cast brings their A-game. The direction is never in yer face, but it immaculately handles the comedy and emphasizes every twist, turn, and reveal that the ultra-tight screenplay has to offer (no line of dialogue is wasted). The plot is harrowing, yet it unfolds in such an anarchic way that you’re never sure what’s around the corner. The only complaints I can level at the film are that it has about 5 natural endings, but keeps chugging on at an even slower pace (and what’s with the midget obsession; there was no need for the character to be a midget other than the cheap laughs). Three Billboards takes the notion of a ‘Tragicomedy’ and pushes both aspects as far as they can go, making it an absolute rollercoaster of emotions for the viewer. Powerful, emotive, and raw; I wouldn’t grudge this film any of the awards that it’s up for.
“RAPED WHILE DYING”
“AND STILL NO ARRESTS?”
“HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?”
GET OUT [Spoilers]: when a girl takes her new boyfriend home to meet her family, he gets way more than he bargained for. As a white metropolitan elite male, and part of the liberal media (a blog counts, right?) the moments of sleight racism, underhand stereotypes, and low-key comments about ‘form’, ‘structure’, ‘genetics’, etc were the hardest bits to watch. The strongest aspect about this film is that it skillfully uses the ‘language’ of horror cinema (jumps, isolation, string score) to emphasize the uneasy and odd parts of the plot. Even white people talking normally about Tiger Woods, Jessie Owens, and Obama sounds creepier through the ‘horror’ lens. The final 10 minutes see a major tone shift into exploitation & schlocky B-movie cheese, with some crowd pleasing gore – although it does feel like it’s been heaped on for good measure – a highlight being a ‘reverse American History X headstomp’ homage. There’s a few other missteps like the ‘gentrified’ help coming over more “robotic” than ‘transplanted’, and the TSA agent friend is purely in there for some cheap comic relief. The best thing about Get Out is that everything mentioned in the first half fits together perfectly for the reveal and finale; however, the flip side of that is that there’s no subtlety, and you get pushed down a particular path, which the film sticks religiously to; which feels too straightforward in a time where you expect more from top-drawer horror.
Contraband: a struggling ex-con must secure his family’s safety by doing one final smuggling run. Being a re-make of Rekjavik-Rotterdam, Hollywood does what it does best and strips out a lot of the smaller background stories, characters, undertones, and relationships that thickened up the original plot, and raised the stakes a little more. Wahlberg‘s steady, but disappointingly typecast as the everyman, and costume-wise, could be from any previous film. This is all minor compared to Giovanni Ribisi, what the fuck is he doing!? His lines were delivered in the most ridiculous accent I’ve heard in years. The rest of the supporting cast really do keep the film propped up, although nobody’s particularly stretched. It’s well-directed, with the urgency maximised and lots of nice shots that play with focusing – it feels quite European / independent. There’s a decent gunfight in the middle (audio is immense) and in true modern heist fashion lots of loose ends are tied up in the final 15 mins. Unfortunately, New Orleans felt like an excuse for decent music, and nothing more. As expected, this is pretty much a cut-down, edges-smoothed, version of the original. It’s decent, but I’d suggest seeking out the original instead.