Martin McDonagh directs Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. The story of one woman who takes it upon herself to take on the local authorities who failed to apprehend the criminal behind the gruesome rape and murder of her daughter.
Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes – a small town Missouri divorced mother of two who lost her daughter a year ago and the perpetrators are still at large. She blames the police chief, William Willoughby played by the inimitable Woody Harrelson, of dereliction of his duty. Other characters in the saga are, the head of the town advertising agency Red Welby played by Caleb Landry Jones and utterly incompetent inspector Dixon played by Sam Rockwell.
Martin McDonagh has been a director whose work I have been keen to see but never managed to get around to. In Bruges garnered him critical acclaim and seven psychopaths seemed to divide the critics but the praise for Three Billboards has been deservedly unanimous. The original story by McDonagh is a shoo-in for a nomination this year. Every character is perfectly fleshed out and someone you can get personally invested in – there are no villains and no real heroes. Each one of them is flawed and shows a level of raw vulnerability that tugs at your heart.
The three standouts for me are McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell. Frances McDormand seems to thrive in these stories set in Rural America. She won her Oscar in Fargo and seems poised to repeat the feat with Three Billboards. Her Midlred Hayes is a tough as nails woman who takes on the entire police department by putting up three billboards to remind them of the still unsolved crime which took her daughter. There is also a vulnerability to her when she talks to a deer, breaks down in a flood of tears as she witnesses a fire. There is also a tenderness to her when she consoles chief Willoughby as he coughs up blood. Woody Harrelson is Mr. Dependable he is the police chief who seems to be running the department with a very laid back attitude. He lets slide a number of infractions on the part of Officer Dixon and but you also see a more genial more thoughtful side to him in the letters he leaves behind for both Mildred and Dixon. Sam Rockwell as Officer Dixon is stupidity personified. He is egged on by his mother and every single choice he makes is the wrong one. However towards the end he is able to redeem himself in a manner that is most unexpected.
The lush cinematography of Ben Davis adds another layer of unexpected beauty to the story. The editing by John Gregory is so precise that not once does the pace slacken or feel flabby at any point.
A simple story masterfully told through characters that are brilliantly written and even more brilliantly enacted. Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri is fantastic and unmissable.
Louis Leterrier directed Now You See Me brings together the worlds of magic and high stakes heist. Starring Jesse Eisenberg the illusionist, Isla Fisher the escape artist, Woody Harrelson the Hypnotist and Dave Franco as the small type pick-pocket cum lock opener are summoned together by a mysterious benefactor to come together as a headlining act “The Four Horsemen”. What ensues is high voltage magic trick which has you involved from the very beginning and will have you guessing till the very last minute.
The story kicks off as the four horsemen are headlining a Las Vegas show and invite an audience member to participate in the act and teleport him to rob a bank. The way this is accomplished is spectacular and it drew an audible gasp from the audience. The foursome are chatty, witty and absolutely engrossing and that is what draws the audience in, you as an audience feel involved in the magic trick. The subsequent 2 tricks only get successively better and more unpredictable and therein lies the strongest moments of the film.
Of the cast Eisenberg is his Social-network chatty best with cocky arrogance and nerdy charm. Isla Fisher again continues to impress with her enthusiasm and eager portrayal of the magician’s assistance turned into an escapists act. Woody Harrelson is witty and funny and has some of the best lines in the movie. Dave Franco is competent and shows signs of the talent that obviously runs in the Franco family. Morgan Freeman plays Thaddeus Bradley a former magician who now debunks the magic tricks by exposing the magicians and how they performed the trick. He also plays the FBI-consultant when Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent come up short trying to apprehend the magicians. Michael Caine rounds out the cast as Arthur Tresler the Insurance magnet who plays benefactor to the Four Horsemen Act.
Where the movie comes up short is when towards the end it tries to tie up loose ends and in doing so does a rush job of revealing who’s who and why so. It could have been handled so much better. Rather than the reveal of the identities happening in the conversation between 2 characters it would have best suited as a conversation that happens at the very end. Melanie Laurent is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful but is left with an unresolved character, the myth of the eye of Horus which plays such an important role in the overall story is blurted out without context and left hanging there with nothing to move it further and then just as summarily dismissed without much thought.
In hands of a better director and with perhaps a little more attention to the screenplay this could have been truly a fantastic movie instead of just ending up as a pop-corn fare. But make no mistake the time you spend watching this movie will be time spent being entertained and that is purely because of the fantastic star cast and some very witty writing.
While certainly no Prestige or Illusionist Now You See Me is a perfectly entertaining Magic-Heist movie that will not leave you bored for even one second. Watch it for the fantastic chemistry between the four lead magicians and some spectacular effects which truly bring alive the Magic and brings you in closer.