Fargo (1996) 4.52/5 (3)


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Rating: The Good – 80.1
Genre: Crime, Drama
Duration: 98 mins
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Stars: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi

A series of hapless and vicious criminals come together in a kidnapping caper only to see their best laid plans going awry as one domino falls after another. As is typical to the Coen Bros’ films Fargo’s plot is difficult to summarise and, as is equally typical, it involves a variety of original and authentic characters who all cross paths either directly or indirectly. Francis McDormand and William H. Macy have never been better as the wily and heavily pregnant police chief and amateur criminal respectively while Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare play a great and menacing double act as the guys Macy hires to kidnap his wife. The Coen’s have always been masters at demonstrating the importance of the unspoken moment but in Fargo they take it to a new level as each scene is given the time and space to breathe so that the audience is in turn given a deeper understanding of the various characters’ motivations. The exteriors of endless white (beautifully captured by Roger Deacons’ cinematography) only serve to enhance this feeling of space and time as the Coens create the most contemplative of backgrounds against which the mindlessness of the crimes and richness of life’s smaller pleasures can be examined. Absolutely beautiful.

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4 thoughts on “Fargo (1996)”

  1. One of the most amazing things about Fargo is Marge. She’s smarter than those around her, but too smart to lord it over them. When she points out to her fellow police officer that he’s made an error in the investigation, she follows it up with a joke to soften the blow. I love the way she tells Norm he can sleep and then after ‘shoving off’ comes back into the house and says, “Prowler needs a jump.” After visiting the scene of a brutal triple murder, she picks up night crawlers for her husband’s fishing trip. She treats the prostitute witnesses and the ex-con Shep Proudfoot as politely as she treats William H. Macy’s car dealer and tries to point out the beauty of life to murderer Peter Stormare. I love Marge. Frances McDormand does a masterful job of bringing her character to life and I’d love to see her pop up in another Coen brothers’ film.

    1. *Really* well put Kerry. I’ve always felt that last scene where she’s driving the woodchipper 🙂 back to the station is one of the more elegant pieces of dialogue in modern cinema. Similar to every example you just gave, it’s full of insight, common sense, & compassion. It ranks up there with Bogart’s speech at the end of Maltese Falcon in those virtues.

      I think the Coens always understood what makes people tick – like when people are really intelligent, there’s no insecurity, no proving a point, and so they’re happy to talk to people straight with no personal egotistically competitive agenda. Marge is the living embodiment of that wisdom.

      Thanks for your post. It’s a lovely commentary and gives me much food for thought:)

  2. I saw this and never thanked you for your reply. Thank you for your reply. Haha. I like that phrase ‘the unspoken moment’. It fits. Well done.

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