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Score of the Month #8 - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by Carter Burwell (2017)


Score of the Month #8 - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by Carter Burwell (2017)


It's a new year, it's been 4 months since my last #ScoreOTM and it's currently Oscar season which means there are one hell of a lot of films out, all of which contain noteworthy soundtracks which makes my choices fairly hard at present when it comes to score reviews!

Firstly, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted... For a variety of reasons, the back end of 2017 became crazy on many fronts for me and while I could say "I just didn't have time", I am disappointed with myself for leaving it for this long, even a short post would have been sufficient in busy times, but I'm sure (or at least I hope) you guys understand, right? Anyway, before I digress too much into my life story, let's get back to the case in point, and that's Carter Burwell's score for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which is this months most important soundtrack for me.

So I had seen the trailer earlier in the month and was enticed by the cinematic tone of the film, intrigued by the title and being a fan of Woody Harrelson, it jumped to the top of my list of films to see next, but I'm going to be totally honest; after working through the night on a score and only getting a few hours sleep before heading for a shift at the day job, I waked into the cinema screen coffee in hand feeling knackered and knowing very little about the film. So little in fact that I didn't even know it was a Martin McDonagh film until the opening titles came up, bad right? 

So I'm there, watching the opening credits and doing my normal jig to the music and it suddenly hits me... This must be a Carter Burwell score? Just as I was thinking that, the titles confirm it for me and I was very satisfied... I am a bit fan of McDonagh's debut film In Bruges and as an extension of that, became a life long fan of Burwell, listening to the score extensively since seeing the film back in 2008.

The score does it once again, while under a totally different sentiment for this film,  Burwell has this amazing ambivalent way of creating creepy, almost medieval sounding cues which are somehow entrenched in emotion and also beautiful all at the same time, I mean I don't even know if that sentence even makes sense, but that is literally how I would describe his music. It's then the way he somehow manages to rearrange the cues into a more grander, upbeat state too, I just admire it so much.

I don't intend to include any spoilers here, but I feel it's fine to note that while the film is of course a black comedy (I did laugh a lot), the film at its core tackles some pretty horrific subjects and deals with pain on a number of different levels through the different characters an their stories. The opening cue "Mildred Goes To War" introduces the film perfectly (this is the cue I was jigging to in the screen), it gives us as opening perception of loneliness, but then quickly gees us up, this particular cue could easily fit into a western just before a standoff of some description, this cue is rearranged several times during the film. I seems to be to be a device to signify that Mildred's (Frances McDormand) iron will and determination for justice and vengeance,  see cues "I've Been Arrested" and "Billboards On Fire" for version variations. 

While the score tends to mainly follow Mildred focusing on her loss and anger, the more solum parts of the score covered by pianos, strings and a solo oboe also appropriately voice Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) in his moments of darkness too. Given loss seems to underpin the entire film motivating many of the characters, this doesn't seem out of place while it underscores the various characters; see cues "The Deer", "My Dear Anne" and "Can't Give Up Hope" for examples of this.

I very much enjoyed the film and I'm sure others will have too (there was much laughter in the screen and people were talking on the way out which is always good to see), I hope this is a welcome choice to kick 2018's #ScoreOfTheMonth off and I promise I'll be back real soon!