Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is not a kind film, and it is not an easy one. It is thoroughly dark and more than a little sad, but has some comedic moments. Perhaps the best way to think of it is as some kind of demented moral play – a grim farce meant to explore the depths of human depravity and whether there is any potential for absolution. As such, the film sets up a horrible situation, doubles down a few times, and then challenges the spectator. Along the way, the performances are outstanding, and though some of the characters feel stereotypical or one-dimensional, that’s the point. Three Billboards is a poignant look at despair and hope, hatred and forgiveness, and prejudice and love.
In A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick means to make you uncomfortable. The magic of the film is that it can show terrible things and then making us care about the mind of the man responsible for them. Kubrick accomplishes this titanic task through three main techniques, each of which will be detailed in this piece: heightened stylization, a uniquely likeable non-hero in Alex, and the unification of every aspect of the film into a potent thematic statement: Free Will is sacrosanct. These aspects make A Clockwork Orange an undeniable classic film, as important today for what it reveals about humanity as it was in 1971.
Silence is vintage Martin Scorsese. The master’s techniques are evident in practically every frame, and his return to a religious subject matter is both fascinating and complex. Nearly three decades ago, The Last Temptation of Christ showed that Scorsese was capable of delivering a nuanced treatise on spirituality, and he has done the same with Silence. These topics are seldom tackled by Scorsese, so we should count ourselves lucky when the director is inspired by a story such as Silence, which has been in pre-production in some form for the last 25 years or so.