Plot: What’s it about?
In an effort to pull himself out of a financial pinch, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) cooks up a scheme to have his own wife kidnapped and held for ransom, which his wealthy father in law would then pay. He would ask his well off father in law for the cash, but he seems to scoff at all attempts Jerry has made in the past. So he uses a local friend to contact some criminals who agree to kidnap the woman for a new car and some serious cash. The two men hired to pull off the task are strange, but come recommended so Jerry doesn’t sweat it too much. So Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) kidnap the woman and then begin the waiting process, which seems like an easy enough task but turns out to be more than they bargained for. Soon the two leave some blood behind them and this starts the police investigation led by Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), a detective who is carrying an unborn child. As time passes and Marge digs deeper into the case, things begin to unravel in all thinkable respects for Jerry and his plans.
As far as the film goes, this is a wonderful dialogue driven character flick that packs a powerful punch. The film moves at a slow pace and relies on dialogue heavily, but it all fits together well and the movie never falters in the least. This is because all the elements seem so natural and realistic, you never doubt the movie even for a second. The accents, the odd events, the atmosphere, it all comes off as natural here, which is no small feat, to be sure. The content is dark, but also highly comedic and at times, Fargo will have you doubled over in spasms of laughter. The cast is superb and the writing is even better and on the whole, I simply can’t recommend this movie enough. So if you’re even a casual fan of Fargo, you’ll want to upgrade to this new re-mastered edition.
This film was directed by Joel Coen, who also helped write the screenplay along with his brother Ethan. These two are known for unusual films with unique characters and this one is a prime example of that, to be sure. The writing is some of the best I’ve heard in a film and the Academy Award win for Best Original Screenplay is a testament to that. The characters and events seem so down to earth and basic, yet on the other hand so otherworldly and bizarre. The visuals are very good also and while there isn’t much variety in them, the style and substance are effective and memorable. If you want to see more of their films I recommend Miller’s Crossing, Blood Simple, The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, and The Hudsucker Proxy. This movie is loaded with excellent performances, but Frances McDormand steals the show more than anyone else. McDormand (Short Cuts, Primal Fear) is very impressive in this role and took home the Oscar for Best Actress for her efforts. I also think Steve Buscemi (Mystery Train, Armageddon), Peter Stormare (The Big Lebowski, 8MM), and William H. Macy (Mystery Men, Mr. Holland’s Opus) all turn in superb performances. The rest of the cast includes Kristin Rudrud (Drop Dead Gorgeous, Pleasantville), Tony Denman (Go, Angus), Harve Presnall (Face/Off, Saving Private Ryan), and Steve Reevis (Dances With Wolves, Twins).
Video: How’s it look?
The real draw of this edition is that the transfer has been given a new 4K restoration – quite the step up from the previous version. As anyone who’s seen the movie knows, the stark white landscape plays a major part in the film. Watching the film again, I don’t even think there’s a scene with sunlight in it. Flesh tones are a bit on the “baked” side, but that’s the way the transfer has always looked. What really took this to another level was the simple purity and smoothness of it. Detail has been improved as well. MGM has done a good job with this re-mastered edition. I won’t say that it’s a night and day difference from the original Blu-ray that came out in 2009, but it’s a definite step up for sure.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The original DVD release contained just Dolby Digital Surround so this serves as a major improvement. From the start of the film you’ll notice that the original musical score done by Carter Burwell sounds wonderful with excellent rear channel and bass presence in the 5.1 soundscape. A film like Fargo is very much dialogue-driven so it’s important that it be delivered perfectly in this 5.1 mix. Sound effects sound extremely realistic and make excellent use of all channels . It’s all enough to keep you on the edge of the seat, if it’s your first time watching the film — that is. Overall this proves to really be a very, very nice upgrade for fans who previously owned this on DVD.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Unfortunately we don’t get any new material here, it’s all ported over from the original special edition DVD.
- Audio Commentary – Director of Photography Roger Deakins delivers a very informative track, that highlights some of the shooting locations and some of the challenges of the shoot itself.
- Minnesota Nice – A 30 minute featurette with some cast and crew interviews.
- Trivia Track – Though not as interesting as when they first came out, there are several tidbits about the film that are still interesting and amusing to learn.
- Photo Gallery – A collection of photos from the film.
- American Cinematographer – Again, featuring Deakins, you use your remote to scroll through and read the article.