"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

After months have passed, and a suspect still not in custody in her daughter’s murder case, lonely and isolated Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) decides, in a risky endeavor, to buy three signs leading into her town with a blatant message firmly directed at the town's police chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Enter second in-command and ticking time-bomb Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who decides to get involved. 

Martin McDonagh’s harrowingly comic film, which won the coveted People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, has narrative and tonal jumps that make for a challenging and engaging experience. Its reception bodes well for a interesting Oscar trajectory. It’s been more than 20 years since Frances McDormand won Best Actress for Fargo, and she’s back again in fine form as a serious contender. Playing Mildred, a woman who draws battle lines with a small town’s local police department by buying the aforementioned three billboards , she's desperately asking that the case to her raped and murdered daughter’s be reopened. McDormand is fiercely hilarious. Forget about Marvel’s heroes; she’s a legitimate Avenger. 

While British writer-director McDonagh, a theater-seasoned director, showed incredible promise with In Bruges and especially 2012’s underseen Seven Psychopaths, it’s safe to say that Three Billboards is his best movie yet. Going back and forth between comedy and drama, this is an unpredictable ride accompanied by some of the most complex characters you’ll see on-screen this movie year. Aside from the formidable McDormand, Sam Rockwell should be another Oscar contender, as the devious deputy sheriff of the town, ditto Woody Harellson as the well-meaning but filled with secrets Police chief. This is quite possibly the best ensemble of the year. Oh, and be prepared for one of the best endings of any movie this decade [A-]