Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 4K Blu-ray Review

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"Raped while dying and still no arrests? How come, Chief Willoughby?"

by Casimir Harlow May 18, 2018 at 6:44 AM

  • SRP: £19.99

    Three Billboards Film Review

    Writer/director Martin McDonagh's third feature is his best yet, a perfectly tuned blend of black comedy and tense drama, expertly acted and boasting a bevy of rich characters

    After In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, most will know McDonagh's style, deftly balancing dark wit with hard drama, but Three Billboards is undoubtedly his most assured work yet. Crafting the screenplay with the lead actors in mind for the parts, it's clear that he has gone out of his way to put all of the right pieces in the right places to make magic. Which is exactly what he does here.

    The premise has Frances McDormand's divorced mother Mildred, finally having had enough of the lack of response from the local police department, deciding to take drastic action to draw attention to the seven month old unsolved murder of her teen daughter.

    Putting the spotlight on Woody Harrelson's Sheriff Willoughby, Mildred is just as angry at his inept deputies, including Sam Rockwell's racist idiot Officer Dixon, a ticking time bomb of repressed anger and brash violence. As Mildred's actions trigger a fiery response from every corner, Dixon starts to go off the rails, with the media on the fringe happy to turn the whole thing into a circus.

    McDonagh's story is an expertly crafted mystery drama, rich in character, and unpredictable at every stage, allowing the incidentally witty interactions between these colourful individuals to offer further misdirection and put you off balance as the drama unfolds.

    An expertly crafted mystery drama, rich in character and unpredictable at every stage.

    McDormand is an utter force of nature, very seldom showing any kind of vulnerability as she goes about her very focused mission, whilst Rockwell deserves credit for a hard-earned scene-stealing support, and Harrelson gets a nod too for some surprisingly hard-hitting work. By fostering so much time on the people who inhabit this little universe, McDonagh’s offbeat narrative almost takes a sideline as you're less interested in what will happen next in the story and more invested in what will happen to these characters.

    Three Billboards maintains a steady momentum and keeps strong pace thanks to bitingly witty scripting and a twisty-turny unpredictable plot which keeps you on your toes - another testament to the strength of writing, direction and acting as the film seldom relies on actual action, and often instead employs disarming humour, yet still manages to remain surprisingly tense for much of its runtime.

    Few directors can blend dark comedy and human drama so skilfully, lending Three Billboards an edge which is reminiscent of top tier Woody Allen (think: Blue Jasmine), but which still carries McDonagh’s own signature style.

    Three Billboards 4K Picture

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Three Billboards 4K Picture
    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was originally listed for just a standard Blu-ray release in the UK, which would have added it to the worryingly increasingly long list of titles which get 4K releases in the US but only Blu-rays in the UK (c.f. Hostiles). Thankfully last minute changes - cynics might associate with its Oscar publicity - see it earn a UK 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release courtesy of Paramount.

    The Ultra HD Blu-ray delivers the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. The disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Three Billboards on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-M9500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

    A great little semi-skimmed 4K presentation that makes for surprising demo material.

    Whilst the digital photography should have arguably earned this an easy native 4K presentation (or as good as), the dreaded 2K Digital Intermediate strikes again here, curtailing any hopes of full-fat 4K. Nonetheless, it's an excellent presentation, which affords the small scale - but superbly shot - drama just enough room to shine.

    A nominal but still pleasing uptick in detail and clarity over the accompanying 1080p Blu-ray - itself boasting an excellent video presentation - provides a good starting point, but it's really the HDR and WCG (isn't it always?) that makes the difference, bringing a rich warmth and depth to the broad vistas and the sunsets, and allowing the vibrant blazing fires that added degree of spectacular pop.

    Black levels are rich and deep, affording the piece excellent shadows and superior night scenes and whilst they don't completely obliterate the already minor crush that appears present on the Blu-ray counterpart, they do reduce it even further. With a fine layer of grain overlaying the piece and affording it a suitably filmic texture, this is a great little semi-skimmed 4K presentation that makes for surprising demo material even if it falls short of reference perfection.

    Three Billboards 4K Sound

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Three Billboards 4K Sound
    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri comes to 4K Blu-ray complete with a great little DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and, despite the lack of 3D immersive audio, it does a very good job with the material.

    A great little track.

    Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array - and it's certainly a dialogue-driven affair - with effects and the tremendous score taking second place but still getting fine presentation.

    Mostly focused on crafting a decent background atmosphere, there are some warm effects noises which lap up a couple of blazing fires and bustling bars - but otherwise remain invested in natural ambience rather than engulfing bombast. The score is a certainly a high point, affording the surrounds further fuel and rounding out a great little track.

    Three Billboards 4K Extras

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Three Billboards 4K Extras
    Disappointingly but unsurprisingly Fox's 4K Blu-ray release of Three Billboards doesn't port any of the supplementals over to the 4K disc itself, leaving fans forced to flip to the accompanying Blu-ray that's included in the set. Fortunately, however, despite the limited selection, there's one particular item that makes this easily worth the effort.

    The extras directly associated with the film itself are hardly overwhelming, headlined by a solid half-hour documentary, Crucify 'Em: The Making of Three Billboards, which offers up a solid selection of cast and crew soundbites and some nice background into the piece. Other than that, there's a few Deleted Scenes and a Gallery.

    There's a fantastic gem in the director's Award-winning short film, Six Shooter, that is well worth checking out.

    However in terms of extras that are not directly related to the movie, there's a fantastic gem in the director's Award-winning short film, Six Shooter, a great little short that's less than half hour long but packs a punch, and is well worth checking out.

    Three Billboards 4K Verdict

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Three Billboards 4K Verdict
    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a fabulously acted mystery drama, rich in characterisations and compelling in subject. It's stars well-earned their respective awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor.

    The film and the 4K Blu-ray release come highly recommended.

    Paramount's UK 4K Blu-ray affords the film excellent video, in spite of it not being a native 4K release, and strong accompanying audio in spite of the lack of a 3D immersive audio track, with a few nice extras made unmissable by the inclusion of the director's Oscar-winning short film, Six Shooter. The film and the 4K Blu-ray release come highly recommended.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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