on 26 November 2003
In this 1996 masterpiece, a complex tale of murder and kidnapping in snowy Minnesota, the Coen brothers find themselves in similar terrain to that explored in their debut feature film "Blood Simple". Both films are brilliantly constructed studies of criminal behavior spiraling out of control, but whereas "Blood Simple" stayed true to the rules of film noir, "Fargo" turns the genre on its head, resulting in a truly unique film-going experience.
The most obvious example of Fargo's subversion of the genre to which it loosely belongs must be the use of Minnesota's stark, snow covered landscape in setting the mood of the piece. Some truly stunning cinematography, combined with a haunting score, produce a backdrop to the film which is undeniably bleak, but also oddly beautiful. The Coen brothers populate this landscape with a host of memorable characters, most noticeably Brainerd's heavily pregnant police chief, Marge Gunderson (played to perfection by Francis McDormand). No hard-boiled copper here, the Coens again toy with convention by imbuing the character of Marge with warmth, humanity and optimism. It is she who must untangle the web of deceit created by desperate car salesman Gerry Lundegaard (the excellant William H Macy) and the incompetent hoods he has hired to do his dirty work (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stromare), and ultimately it is Marge who provides the moral counterpoint to the movies amoral plot.
In conclusion, Fargo was one of the greatest American films of the 1990's, well deserving of it's two Oscars and required viewing for anyone who considers themselves to be a true fan of cinema.
on 31 October 2012
The reviews of the BluRay have put me off upgrading from my Special Edition DVD, but I cannot for the life of me understand the negative reviews of this piece of great cinematic humour. I watched it again last night with "her indoors" and within minutes of the start, we were both grinning like cheshire cats at some of the ludicrous things that Jerry tries to do to get himself out of the hole he is in. I honestly found this a lot better than some of the other Coen Brothers stuff, loved every minute of my re-run, and will watch it again and recommend it to anyone with a sense of humour, particularly a dark one. Jerry's stupidity, the kidnappers' cackhandedness, the overbearing father in law and the bickering of Steve Buscemi with his partner all make this riotously entertaining, but add to that the local laconic drawl of the cast, and it is just so engaging and amusing. Ignore the negatives and get a copy.
Fargo is a Coen classic that no matter how many times I watch it, gives me a wince and a laugh. Frances McDormand is her usual excellent self although you could argue that her characters are always the same.
If you're a newcomer to the Coen catalogue put Fargo prettyy close to the top of your wishlist. It's the Coen's doing what they do best, short and sweet excellent story telling. It does bug me that they put 'Based on a true story' at the start, just to get us talking about it. A bit of boy who cried wolf going on...
The blu-ray transfer is very so-so. Most of the time, it's very grainy but the colours are enhanced. I didn't notice anything different with the audio - there's not much for HD audio to work with. Is it better than the DVD? Marginally but given it's such a low price it's just about worth the upgrade.
Languages on disc: English DTS HD master & Stereo; Castillian Spanish 5.1 DTS; Brazillian Portugese 5.1 DTS; French (Parisian) 5.1 DTS; French (Quebecous) 5.1 DTS; German; Italian; Latin Spanish;
Subs on disc: Loads! Castillian text and commentary; Brazillian Portugese, Cantonese; Croatian; Czech; Dutch text and commentary; French (Parisian & Quebecois); German text and commentary; Greek; Hebrew; Hungarian; Italian text and commentary; Korean; Latin Spanish; Mandarin; Polish; Potugese; Thai; Turkish
NOTE: The packaging says that there are Japanese language and subtitles available but they are NOT on the disc.
on 23 January 2005
The films that the infamous Coen brothers make are all very different but all maintain dark humour and character driven storylines. Fargo is a typical example of their work.
Running just over 90 minutes, it's hard to describe Fargo as a comedy or dark thriller. In all, it has aspects of both. Set in a cold Minnesota, It tells the story of a car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) who, in a get rich quick scheme, has his wife kidnapped by two men, Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare). A ransom is demanded from Jerry's wife's wealthy father (Harve Presnell) which is to be divided between Jerry and the kidnappers. However, everything gets worse and worse when one of the kidnappers committs a murder. The police get involved, headed by a pregnant Marge Gunderson (Oscar-winning Frances McDormand).
The characters in Fargo are what keep the film going. Steve Buscemi plays Carl to perfection, talking too much and described as "funny looking". His colleague, Gaear is that shady silent type who likes to do things his own way and Peter Stormare delivers his threatening stares in a chilling way. For me, these two were the highlight of the film but William H. Macy pullsof Jerry brilliantly, displaying simulataneously a liar, a thief, a loving father and husband as well as ultimately a good guy whose life has taken a turn for the worse. Frances McDormand comically plays the traditional Minnesota local - good hearted and innocent and is a joy to watch.
Fargo is deep, chilling and clever as well as very witty in places and is definately worth seeing.
on 22 September 2008
The other night, I saw a new film starring Frances McDormand. Her pesence on the silver screen led me to free associate to her Academy Award winning role as the seven month pregnant Police Chief Marge Gunderson, obliged to investigate a triple homocide in the nearby small town of Brainerd in snow blanketed Minnesota.
By now everyone is familiar with the magic put on the screen by the Coen Brothers. However, 10 years after having first (and last) seen FARGO it was still utterly entertaining and freshly surprising for me. The blindingly white landscape could now be even more appreciated for the creative way in which the Coens had decided to have the film shot. For me, now, in addition to revisiting the now well known story line it was like visiting a fine art museum to savor the subtle blending of colors and shapes by one of the old masters.
The rest of the cast assembled by the Coens for FARGO have gone on to distinguished acting careers -- nearly all. William H. Macy's hapless, incompetent, and bumbling car saleman Jerry Lundegaard is one of his classic roles. Similarly, Steve Buscemi's weirdo criminal mastermind Carl was essentially replicated in other films such as CONAIR. Sweden's Peter Stormare who played Gaer, Carl's creepy and mostly silent henchman who had committed most but not all of the murders, had also appeared in the films Minority Report and in the 2005 film Constantine.
FARGO is available with subtitling in nine non-English languages -- revealing its global popularity. The digital high quality of the pictures and sound made home viewing of the movie a plasure. It is definitely worthwhile to revisit this now classical 1990s offbeat murder mystery.
Revisiting FARGO or even seeing it for the first time now is very worthwhile for an evening's home entertainment.
A very entertaining black comedy, this follows a seemingly ordinary car salesman who has a debt problem and hatches a plot to solve it. Naturally, things don't go according to plan...
Set in a wintery Minnesota, the landscapes are large, bleak and cold, with some interesting camerawork emphasising this. There are some great characters, particularly Marge the cop, hapless Jerry and the two hitmen. The dialogue and accents are apparently reflective of the area, with a lot of "Ya, You Betcha and Jeez" in almost Scandinavian accents.
Marge's interview with the girls was particularly amusing, describing the guys as "funny looking".
The blu-ray picture quality didn't strike me as anything brilliant and the sound is low-key anyway, so nothing special there. I'd still take the blu-ray over the DVD though.
Definitely a very watchable film, with many moments of calm, lots of amusing dialogue and some almost cartoon-like violence.
Hollywood prefers to ignore the Midwest. When it is featured at all, its people are often depicted as either drooling yokels or simple yet wise folk who exist just to teach life lessons.
One of the few exceptions is "Fargo," the Coen Brothers' breakout movie. It's half kidnapping caper, half valentine to their home stage of Minnesota -- and despite the heaps of snow and the occasional dead body, it has a warm charm embodied in Frances McDormand's pregnant sheriff. This movie could have had no plot at all, and it would still have been fun.
Car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is facing financial ruin, so he comes up with a cunning idea: he'll hire a pair of loser thugs, Carl (Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare), to kidnap his wife so he can extract a ransom from her wealthy father. But things go awry during the kidnapping when Gaear shoots a traffic cop and the passengers of a car.
Unsurprisingly, the police are interested in what happens. Local police sheriff Marge Gunderson (McDormand) begins investing the murders and the kidnapping, interviewing prostitutes and chitchatting with an old classmate. But Jerry's seemingly-simple plot keeps spinning more and more out of control -- and as Marge gets closer to the murderers/kidnappers, the deaths just keep piling up.
"Fargo" is the perfect example of a quirky movie done right, mainly because... it doesn't feel like the Coens were trying to be quirky. Instead, it feels like they are pouring all their affection for their home state in one movie -- mostly the "Minnesota nice" (even the cops are pleasant and chipper!), the laid-back attitude and the eccentric sense of humor ("Ah, hon, ya got Arby's all over me!").
The charm only really lets up when things get violent -- brief spurts of death, cursing and big scarlet spatters against the snow. Perhaps that is because the murders themselves are the only part of the movie that the Coens don't have affection for.
But the murder scheme itself is fairly entertaining, simply because it becomes more chaotic with every step. On the other hand, the investigation is handled in an oddly laid-back way, so that the audience just sort of sits back and enjoys the journey with Marg. And wound around the main plot are a series of small, oddly memorable personal subplots (Marge's husband entering an important art competition).
This is one of Frances McDormand's best performances -- a mellow police chief who also happens to be seven months pregnant ("Now I'm hungry"), and can whip out a gun when she needs to. Marge is the complete opposite of all those tortured gritty cops, and that is part of the reason she's so lovable. The sing-songy Minnesota accent doesn't hurt either -- all those people speaking like that is music to the ears.
Despite lots of blood and murder, "Fargo" is a quirky, charming little movie -- and it lets you know pretty much how the Coens see Minnesota. Definitely a timeless must-see.
on 16 January 2004
This film excels because of the great script; have a great script for a film then you are more than half way there to having a great film!!
The good performances all round also make this film what it is especially William H Macy, who in my opinion, is very under-rated as an actor!!
This film is funny, and also looks great, the setting really sets the tone for the film and keeps it throughout!
The special features for the dvd are alright, but the commentary is pretty pants!
But dont let that stop you seeing this! It is an original, funny film which should be seen by everyone!
Ya, sure, ya betcha!
on 2 May 2003
By turns funny, chilling, gripping and moving, this is a film that I would recommend to anyone. Coen Brothers fans will already be aware of their unique approach to movie-making, but for those who are wondering what the fuss is all about, watch this film. Everything is excellent - the photography is beautiful, the music haunting and the performances...!! William H. Macy's desperate car salesman is a peach and Frances McDormand judges her part to perfection. As you'll guess, I cannot say how much I enjoy this film, but the real beauty of it is that it's a great story, well told. It will keep you watching and make you want to watch it again to catch all the bits you missed the first time round ... then you'll watch it again just for the sheer enjoyment of it!
PLUS the DVD has good extras - a trivia feature that is interesting and funny and an excellent commentary track. Do buy this DVD - you won't be disappointed!
Fargo is another brilliant querky story by the Coen brothers about the little people in every-day small town USA that most Hollywood films never go near.
It starts off slow but once we meet all the characters you just remain glued. The plot revolves around car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (played by William H. Macy) who is in deep financial trouble. He hatches a plan to get some of his father-in-laws cash by having his wife kidnapped. This task is assigned to Coen brother regulars Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare. As you would guess, the scheme goes completely pear-shared and we get murder after murder until pregnant policewoman Marge Gundersson (Frances McDormand) solves the case.
It's a violent and dark film but with comedy on many layers; the punishment given to poor old Steve Buscemi's character just keeps getting worse and worse as the tale goes on (watch it to find out), and lines like "he was kinda funny lookin'" and "I'm co-operatin' here" are unforgettable. You know it's a good movie when you and your friends keep quoting lines from it again and again. Definitely the Coen Brothers best all-round film to date.