Read to Remember How Martin McDonagh Used to Create His Movies, As He Makes Another One!

This coming year, the outrageous director Martin McDonagh is going to complete his 4th full length movie, `The Banshees of Inisheer`, which will be the third installment of the `Aran Islands Trilogy`. In the cast are Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the killing pair from ` In Bruges` and regulars in Macdonagh movies, even though they will appear together only for the second time. The overall cast theme is quite interesting, so we will return to it later.

Meanwhile, just think about the art on display, when a blood fight takes place in a desert sunset in the USA. A place in the very heart of ancient Belgium becomes one of the places one `must visit` after watching McDonagh films, as I have done.  A romantic story about Bruges is going on until now, in spite of the height of the Chapel where in a cameo appearance Gleeson commits suicide. Together with a defiant plot, it`s accomplishing an ethical education, I don’t know why, but all this beauty is perceived effectively with adrenaline, which goes off the chart.

People often are murdered in McDonagh’s plots, sometimes it takes place in a church. Rarely it happens with kids, the occasional character is drug addicted or dealing, and almost every story is full of `black` humour. Then the eternal jokes about the British and the Irish, followed immediately by the name McDonagh. For 2 hours of the film, the rules of tolerance are violated dozens of times. He has given up on the ethical world to show how immoral it remains.

And, whether we are righteous or not, why is Martin McDonagh still one of the most popular directors?

Up to now he has directed 3 full length movies:  `In Bruges`, `7 Psychopaths` and the famous `Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri`. Cruel films, but everyone praises McDonagh for his extreme empathy towards heroes, which he also causes the viewer to experience. We begin to love the boy’s killer, sympathize with the screenwriter and each “psychopath”. We understand the stiffness of the mother and grasp her despair. We expose our feelings, and this just a few minutes after we hated all of them in the earlier episodes.

In Bruges


From the movie "In Bruges"
From the movie “In Bruges”


A quite controversial film that was nominated for an Oscar and received several awards at the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and British Independent Film Festival.

In the story, two hitmen come to the ancient Belgian city of Bruges on the command of their boss. They don’t know yet that one of them is a victim and one of them will have to kill. Ray (Colin Farrell), a rather closed and negative rude Irishman who tell sharp-edged jokes about Americans, always tries to get drunk so as not to be tortured by thoughts. He is a victim. Why?



Ken (Brendan Gleeson) is calm and good-natured, which is hardly usual for the killer. For a couple of days, they spend some leisure time on touristic sights. At the same time exploring the magnificent views of Gothic Canals for the viewers. The city is sad, just perfect for the murder that Ken must committ. But why?

Several episodes later, we are taken into the story of the first failed task. Ray had to kill the priest by shooting into the confession booth. Unpredictably, as the priest had gone into the sanctuary when it seemed to be empty. Following him, Farrell shoots his gun and kills the priest dead, as he only has time to say: `Little boy`.

Archetypes of sanctity

Ray sees a dead, innocent child who prayed in church that day. From this point, we experience compassion over the emotions he feels. In a movie where shootings are spread around as actors are talking, and drugs and absurdities bloom, children are the archetype of sanctity. That’s why Ray must be killed, that’s why they came to Bruges to begin with, as their boss associated this city with a trip in childhood. That’s why the boss will kill himself, thinking a dwarf was a child he murdered later, indeed, the highest resentment by comparison: `If I killed a child…` ( always spoken when angry and annoyed).


From the movie "In Bruges"
From the movie “In Bruges”


Meanwhile, Ray and Ken go to a museum to see a painting. Ray sees the original Hieronymus Bosch triptych, `The Last Judgment`, with the Garden of Eden in the left panel and Hell in the right. The Central panel depicts the punishment of sinners, in other words Ray’s mental death, isn’t it? All this makes Ray think of ending his life by suicide. In the episode where he sits in the park with the muzzle pressed to his temple, getting ready to pull the trigger, Ken is already approaching him with another gun. This is followed by philosophical reflection and as a result – Ken lets Ray escape. Upon learning that fact, the boss arrives in Bruges.

Eccentric writing style

The writing style of Martin McDonagh is rather eccentric. He doesn’t finish any plot on paper, always lets the story unwind with the characters as inspiration occurs. Indeed, in McDonagh films, the endings remain unresolved, that’s a fact. But the beginnings blow away. The story of making `In Bruges` grew out of a failed date.

Martin McDonagh arrived in Bruges to spend a week in Bruges with a girl. He wandered around the city all day, exploring its surroundings. Before that, he checked out all the museums he and his date might visit together, but the girl called the next day and canceled the date. In an interview, Martin said that the canceled meeting did not prevent him from feeling the inspiration to make a movie in this city, because it is so picturesque. Then Martin examined every street, every square and at the time of departure he was already sure that he must create a story here.

A few weeks before the start of filming, he checked into the same hotel. He stayed in the same room, and actually sensed all the details of how the story should be presented on screen. As a result, we see the images of odd killers as examples of spouses who have been married for many years. And life, and jokes, and conversations, and the risks that they take for each other – all this adds softness and warmth to the plot.

Finally, Ken jumps out of the chapel to warn his friend, having previously cleared the way with coins, so as not to sacrifice anyone else. The boss shoots himself because of the `dwarf`murder, and what happens with Ray is not a completed story.

7 Psychopaths


From the movie "7 Psychopaths"
From the movie “7 Psychopaths”


The unresolved finale is the least thing the viewer might notice. A screenwriter is stuck in a crisis for part of his career. He is mired in alcohol and depression, thanks to a lack of inspiration. So, we are shown the real way many screen stories are created.

With a commission for a new film, he begins to write a story about 7 Psychopaths. It becomes his life, a parallel world, as it were. In order to attract more diverse stories, his friend posts an advertisement – `they are looking for psychos with fascinating stories of their lives`.



And then all 7 psychos appear: Psychopath 1 – Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) “The Joker”, the Mafia killer. Psychopath 2 – Quaker aka Hans (Christopher Walken). Psychopath No. 3 – Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson). Psychopath No. 4 – a Viet Cong priest and terrorist (Long Nguyen). Psychopaths 5 and 6 – Zachariah Rigby and Maggie (Tom Waits and Amanda Warren), global American avengers. Psycho 7 – the killer of the girl, Charlie Costello, and lover, Billy Bickle.

A loud version of itself

Martin McDonagh does not consider the picture to be his best work, only because he was not in peak form, as `In Bruges` or `Billboards`. But the movie still became a loud version of itself, whether or not the images are seemingly imperfect in reality, they exist conditionally.

The scene where the Viet Cong, a psychopath in a priest costume, is plotting a terrorist attack against Americans because they destroyed his village and killed his family. And at the same time, he decides to use a white prostitute, and put explosives on her. This would not happen in real life. Meanwhile, the story continues to be written and moves into a beautiful desert, with sunsets and sunrises. There, psychopath Hans and psychopath Billy begin to help Martin (Colin Farrell) finish writing the script. McDonagh allows the characters to speak for themselves, as well as to live their lives. Otherwise, it would be like a monologue with just the voices changed. In regard to the sacred animals, dogs and rabbits, were those the heroes killed and died for?

`7 Psychopaths` is a black comedy, but it is not so much dangerous as absurd. After all, imagine if you placed an advertisement in a newspaper: “Looking for psychopaths in order to create a story?”, who would do that in real life?

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


From the movie "Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri"
From the movie “Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”


According to the plot, Mildred`s daughter was raped and killed. To draw the attention of the authorities, the mother rents three old dilapidated billboards at the outskirts of Ebbing (in fact, it was an imaginary city although its prototype was Silver, in North Carolina), where she places provocative announcements, thereby declaring war on the police and local government.

Who seems rude, without any values at first glance, transforms into people, struggling with their inner problems, whom we are ready to understand. That’s  the method which McDonagh actively uses in his scenes. The local policeman, played by Sam Rockwell, reveals himself to be fair and humane, and ready to avenge Mildred`s daughter.



While Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), suffering from cancer, understands the hopelessness of the situation. He tries to show Mildred that accepting injustice is the only way to resist its preponderance in the world. And Mildred herself realizes how many people she has pulled into this mess and how many have had to suffer from her grief. Actually, she was always going to take revenge. But no one could predict the price and the fact that everything would turn into a complete rethinking of the current situation.

Open ending

Initially, the idea for creating the film had come 20 years earlier, when Martin McDonagh first saw such billboards from the window of a bus as he travelled across America. When Martin MacDonagh wrote the script, he created the image of Mildred, performed by Frances McDormand, in his mind. He spoke about this in an interview, and also noted that `If Frances McDormand had not agreed, I couldn’t even imagine who would replace her`.


From the movie "Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri"
From the movie “Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”


The script had no ending before filming began. He had written it only to the moment when the inscriptions appeared on the billboards, and thereafter trusted in intuition and fate, so that the plot could lead to the ending that we see. Which, by the way, also remains open, because it is not clear what Mildred and Sam decide on the way to the city where the murderer from the bar lives.

The Martin McDonagh League

When famous artists agree to act in spite of an unfinished script, this indicates a great confidence in the director, as well as his professionalism. Okay, Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Brendan Gleeson – they had already filmed with him before, and there was no doubt that the film would be a success. Martin McDonagh has mentioned several times that he is always comfortable working with a team that has already worked together, because he knows the actors, their abilities, therefore the images can be adjusted to suit their types.


Martin McDonagh
Martin McDonagh


And back to the `Aran Island trilogy`, which contains The Cripple of Inishmaan (1996), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001), and The Banshees of Inisheer, which has never been published before. The story about two besties from Inisheer, the smallest island of Aran, when one of them becomes the initiator of a life-long relationship breakdown. The consequences later come back to haunt them both. Considering that the female image of the Banshee (`ghost`) in Irish folklore is strictly linked with the death and mourning of the members with which this creature is connected, it would be tough times for heroes.

Now knowing how Martin McDonagh can turn a story, and his special style of choosing accents, we can only predict what to see on the screen in his future films.


Photos: MovieStillsDB

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