Release Date(s)2017 (February 27, 2018)
Studio(s)Blueprint Pictures/Film 4/Fox Searchlight (20th Century Fox)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C-
Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is living a life of desperation in her small Missouri town after the murder of her daughter. It’s been seven months since the tragedy, yet the local police, led by Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), have been unable to solve the case. This gnaws at Willoughby, adding to the pressure he already feels from the fact that he’s fighting a losing battle with cancer and he’s got a racist deputy (Sam Rockwell) with a reputation for abusing prisoners in his custody. But the tension between them only grows when Mildred rents a set of abandoned billboards on the edge of town, filling them with angry messages that very publicly rub Willoughby’s nose in his failure.
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a film about deeply-flawed people doing the best they can in terribly difficult circumstances none of them are particularly equipped to handle. The drama features an almost Coen-esque tone in that its tragic circumstances are tinged with hints of black comedy, moments that will make you laugh and leave you feeling as hopeless as the characters. This tone is reinforced by a soundtrack assembled by the great Carter Burwell, a frequent Coen collaborator. All three leads deliver great performances (including Rockwell, who just won an Oscar for his role) and they’re supported by a fine group of character actors, including John Hawkes (Deadwood), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Darrell Britt-Gibson (The Wire), Sandy Martin (Napoleon Dynamite), Peter Clarke (Treme), Željko Ivanek (Madame Secretary), Amanda Warren (The Leftovers), and Nick Searcy (Justified). There’s also lovely atmospheric cinematography by Ben Davis, better known for his work on recent Marvel films (including Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and Avengers: Age of Ultron).
Three Billboards was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (2.8K) using ARRI Alexa XT cameras and finished to a 2K Digital Intermediate. It was given an HDR10 color grade and is presented here on 4K Ultra HD in the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Detail is surprisingly good for a 2K upsample, with nicely-refined texturing. Contrast is good too, with deep and detailed blacks and naturally-bright whites. It’s the colors here that really shine, however, with remarkable nuance and variety. The opening shots of the abandoned billboards in the gloom reveal subtle shadings of blue, green, and gray. The billboard images, once posted, are boldly red. Mildred’s gift shop blouse is a rich salmon pink. The color timing has a slightly warm push overall, but the image as a whole is lovely, not reference quality certainly but still quite satisfying.
Audio on the 4K disc is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, the same track found on the Blu-ray version. It’s a good mix that matches the visuals well, with a nicely wide soundstage and excellent clarity. The surround channels are used for finish and immersion. Dialogue is clean at all times and Burwell’s fine music choices are well staged throughout. Additional audio options include English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish, Czech, and Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and French, Castilian, German, and Italian 5.1 DTS, with optional subtitles in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French (Quebec), French, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Czech, Polish, and Simplified and Traditional Chinese.
The 4K disc itself offers no bonus features, but the included Blu-ray features the film in 1080p HD and adds the following features (all in HD):
- Deleted Scene: Willoughby Meets News Crews (1:03)
- Deleted Scene: Mildred Versus the Town (:39)
- Deleted Scene: Dixon Interrogates Denise (2:16)
- Deleted Scene: Dixon Drunk at Bar (1:52)
- Deleted Scene: Dixon and Momma (1:18)
- Crucify ‘Em: The Making of Three Billboards (29:30)
- Six Shooter short film (SD – 26:30)
- Gallery (14 images)
- Theatrical Trailers (3 trailers – 6:07 in all)
The extras are fine but of the usual light-EPK variety. The deleted scenes include a couple of nice moments. You also get a Movies Anywhere digital code on a paper insert.
Three Billboards is a dark but emotionally revealing film that features excellent performances and surprising insights about the nature of people and life in rural middle American, where no one and nothing is quite as simple or easy as it might seem. This is a world, and a story, of deep human complexity and it’s well worth your time. Fox’s 4K Ultra HD release isn’t flashy, but it’s definitely solid and rewarding.
- Bill Hunt