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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Poster for the movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

20171 h 55 min
Overview

After seven months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at Bill Willoughby, the town's revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Jason Dixon, an immature mother's boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law enforcement is only exacerbated.

Metadata
Director Martin McDonagh
Runtime 1 h 55 min
Release Date 10 November 2017
Details
Movie Media VoD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

If I had to use just one word to describe this movie, it’d be “sorrowful”. The film is very much a black comedy, but there are segments where it leans a lot more towards “black” than “comedy”. The premise is pretty simple; this woman’s daughter was raped & murdered, the cops didn’t catch whoever did it, and that is destroying her. It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that Frances McDormand’s character Mildred does not take shit from people. But at the same time, she feels powerless in so many ways and it’s hard to watch all the struggles happening to this woman and the people around her all stemming from this one horrific act of violence.

The performances here are amazing. Just about every time Mildred opens her mouth, you can feel the anger and resolve of her words in the air. But we also see her moments of grief; she is a very 3D character. One moment you’re laughing at how she’s made some bastard feel like a fool and the next you’re sucker-punched in the gut by seeing her vulnerable. And it all just feels…real. Movie characters can be pretty 2D and simplistic, but everyone knows that real life is a swirl of emotions. Horrible things like this actually happen, all the time, and even fictional stories like this one (built with a grain of truth, mind you) can hurt even while being entertaining once you remember that.

Now, I have seen a couple of other reviews that complain about the portrayal of racism in this film. On one hand, I definitely agree that the racist characters turning over a new leaf and all is forgiven is bullshit. On the other hand, this movie takes place in rural Missouri. It would be weird if there weren’t any racist characters. I say that as someone who lives in Missouri, born and raised. You get more than a couple of miles from the major city limits around here and you start to hear banjos.

This is definitely one of the emotionally strongest films I’ve seen, ever. Everybody goes through some form of pain and loss in their life, but my god, I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child. Most people can’t, thankfully. But this film comes shockingly close to giving audiences a taste of what those emotions can do to people. And despite all the plot holes…well, it’s still a movie. Suspension of disbelief is a thing, use it and just enjoy the film.

January 31, 2021

Contagion

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Poster for the movie "Contagion"

Contagion

Nothing spreads like fear

20111 h 46 min
Overview

As an epidemic of a lethal airborne virus - that kills within days - rapidly grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself.

Metadata
Runtime 1 h 46 min
Release Date 8 September 2011
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

They say life imitates art and that seems true where Contagion is concerned right now. There are a lot of pandemic/illness movies out there, but Contagion is the most realistic one I have seen. Most other films seem to be zombie movies, post-apocalypse scenarios, or comedies. The next closest film is probably Outbreak, but even that is grossly unrealistic compared to Contagion. Outbreak is a bit more fun as a movie, but far from being mistaken as a documentary. It Comes At Night is also a close second but carries a very different tone. The Andromeda Strain also merits mention, but the overall story there is very unlike a pandemic.

This is not the first film where director Steven Soderbergh used an ensemble cast and this film would not have worked without it. In any story where society as a whole is affected, it is easy to get too focused on one area. Many such stories focus on just one group of survivors or scientists looking for a cure. In Contagion, we get a little bit of everything. The character cast consist of scientists, government officials, and members of the public in different locations worldwide as events unfold.

The spread of the virus itself is incredibly realistic. At first, very few individuals grasp how bad this is going to be. As things get worse, governments on both local and federal levels are more worried about their bureaucracy than the outbreak. You have individuals who are looting for food and medicine, an individual spreading misinformation for his own personal benefit, and people both in and outside of world governments forming “us vs them” mentalities as supplies begin to grow limited. And throughout all that, the film bounces through the entire cast pretty evenly with limited character development so that the pandemic itself remains the key focus.

What is really great about Contagion is the sense of realism. This is not a film that necessarily has a happy ending. The characters do not find a cure and just declare “the day is saved!” and the film ends. Even after working towards a cure, which takes time, they still have to produce and distribute it. They know more people will die in that time, but there is nothing else they can do at that point. Ultimately everything winds up being ok, but the question “for how long?” looms over the audience as the film ends.

March 29, 2020