Gary Oldman is utterly transformed and Oscar-worthy as Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s gripping retelling of a pivotal moment in British history. Days after becoming Prime Minister in May 1940, Churchill is thrust into a baptism of fire. Allied forces are cornered at Dunkirk. The threat of invasion looms. A cabal of politicians led by Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane) pushes hard for peace talks. Faced with an unprepared public, a sceptical king (Mendelsohn), and his own party plotting to oust him, Churchill must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler or stand and fight. Based on a screenplay by Anthony McCarten (The Theory Of Everything), this lavish period drama thrillingly depicts the bubbling cauldron of backroom conflict in Churchill’s momentous first weeks in office. It’s a rousing story of leadership, and makes for a wonderful companion piece to last year’s immersive epic Dunkirk.
Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are at their best in this blistering pitch-black comedy from Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). McDormand stars as the foul-mouthed, tough-as-nails Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother whose frustration boils over when the local police allow her daughter’s murder case to go cold. She publicly shames the town’s revered sheriff, William Willoughby (Harrelson), with three disused billboards, a sequence of bright red reminders that justice has not been served. The move stokes the ire of Willoughby’s thuggish, bigoted deputy (Rockwell), and so begins a violent, vicious circle of anger and revenge. From there, Three Billboards hurtles along an unpredictable but hugely rewarding narrative arc, veering between riotous laughter and sobering drama throughout. Sharply scripted and wonderfully acted, it’s one of the most accomplished contenders in this year’s awards race.