Fargo (1996)

Fargo (1996)
  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Joel Coen
  • Cast: Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy


Jerry works in his father-in-law’s car dealership and has gotten himself in financial problems. He tries various schemes to come up with money needed for a reason that is never really explained. It has to be assumed that his huge embezzlement of money from the dealership is about to be discovered by father-in-law. When all else falls through, plans he set in motion earlier for two men to kidnap his wife for ransom to be paid by her wealthy father (who doesn’t seem to have the time of day for son-in-law). From the moment of the kidnapping, things go wrong and what was supposed to be a non-violent affair turns bloody with more blood added by the minute. Jerry is upset at the bloodshed, which turns loose a pregnant sheriff from Brainerd, MN who is tenacious in attempting to solve the three murders in her jurisdiction.


  • “Fargo” is one of those movies that persist in the history. The Coen brothers always had a taste for perversion and pathos in “inhospitable” landscapes hidden, for the black humor and the absurd. They are so smart that their films always cross the barrier of mainstream even if try sold with the label “indie” (eg adaptation of Corman McCarthy “No Country For Old Men” or even “Fargo”). And while not always handled well their tics (“The Big Lebowski” is hilarious but the argument is trivial; “Inside Llewyn Davis” is tight, and a couple of commercial and critical failures), they are synonymous of talent. “Fargo” received seven Oscar nominations (won two), a giant awoke in the current review and towering achieving unanimous consensus, and rarely missing on the list of great films of all time. It is a story that no doubt would have liked to Tarantino to direct, because like “Pulp Fiction” here there are much black humor and a criminal plan that does not always go as expected, and where there are many errors and serious consequences for the protagonists. Actually , “Fargo” also takes things in common with “Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer” where two criminals behave as human beings: laughing, being goofy, watching TV dramas, etc.

    The reason that “Fargo” is so popular and praised is precisely due to the concern and grace that causes to see humans on screen. In that sense, no different from the aforementioned “Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer” or movies like “Match Point” (Woody Allen). William Macy, his greed leads him to plan a criminal act: the kidnapping of his own wife… and that we’re talking about a “common” man (he has a job, has a family, etc.). The film is envisioned that Macy has a problem of urgent cash to fix, but you can remove that detail in the character and could be a perfectly “normal” man whose greed and desire to stay in a certin status has led to the extreme situation of planning an extreme act. That is a point of similarity with “Match Point”, but William Macy adds pathos: he is a weak man who can not even face the humiliation of his wife’s father. On the side of “Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer”, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare are also two stubborn, clumsy that behave perfectly human way… even they are dumb as some of us. It is practically impossible not to feel sympathy or laugh when Stormare notes so amateur as if someone is at home to break the glass. They are people behaving naturally, they fight each other as best friends can do, they can watch TV, they can enjoy…. the only difference with you is that they kidnap and kill people for money, or do other twisted things. Even someone as shy and passive as Stormare is the most lethal

    Frances McDorman is also quite ordinary. Her husband is a mediocre artist who may never succeed, and she (like her husband ) lives eating. She is also clumsy. Steve Reeves (mechanical ex-con) is a man who is able to offer any assistance twisted (eg get Macy to contact criminals), as long as you do not get involved with him (the outburst of fury at Buscemi when police warns he can revert back to jail ). The rest of the characters due to time perhaps are not as well developed and are stereotypes. And of course, the landscapes of Minnesota: the Coen brothers achieve a perfect styling, with large wide shots to convey the atmosphere of the icy lands, emphasizing the monochrome white snow, and a few more tricks to recreate loneliness (eg music background, or focusing on the small details of the landscape from very large and far planes). Like a horror film, the worse things can happen in the most remote places. It is easy to draw a geographical analogy in the most famous serial murderers, as beings that thrive in such places (statistically speaking, eg Ed Gein)

    “Fargo” is not perfect. Mike Yanagita character adds nothing and could be easily edited. Moreover, the performance of Frances McDorman is too relaxed, almost to become overplayed (yet she remains sympathetic). Another problem is that criminals never explicit the rules of coexistence, so ultimately Stormare’s decision to kill his companion is arbitrary and it is impossible not to see it as a script step to advance the story. The last bug is that the last speech from the police about what happened to Stormare (arrested in the car) has no referent: perhaps be a more appropriate speech to Buscemi, who was more greedy, but it is also true that the Stormare impassive performance not help. While in the rest of the movie he’s great (a kind of Bruce Willis, but shy and quiet but more violent), in the police speech he listens impassively what the police are saying, so does not convey fully the moral (it appears that, after all, he doesn’t make a dent in what McDorman say). But are small details in an excellent movie

  • The Coen Brothers are two of the greatest film-makers in recent memory and Fargo is their crowning achievement. From the same guys behind ‘Blood Simple’,’Barton Fink’, ‘The Big Lebowski’ comes a crime- thriller unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. ‘Fargo’ tells the story of a car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard’s who’s inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen’s bungling and the persistent police work of police chief Marge Gunderson.

    Set across the sprawling Minnesota landscape, Fargo is in essence a crime-thriller with dark comic tones, suspense and murder. What makes this movie so fantastic is how blunt and shocking it can be. It manages to balance the dark comedy with suspense and violence perfectly. The characterization is amazingly complex and the performances memorable. Frances McDormand and William H. Macy give career best performances as Marge Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard respectively. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare are also excellent in supporting roles, playing the criminals. However, the best thing about this film is probably it’s exceptionally well-written screenplay, filled with gritty dialogue. The pacing of the movie never slows and develops perfectly up till the finale which leaves you in shock and awe.

    Final Score: 9.8/10

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