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.
This title was first released as a bare bones disc from Polygram and soon went out of print, to increase in value on the secondary market. Now MGM has issued a new version of Fargo and this one is much better than the previous release. You lose some cast bios in the transition, but what you gain is much better than talent files I assure you. This release sports the film’s theatrical trailer and also contains the movie in an anamorphic widescreen transfer. So those of you who own the older disc, the time has some to trade up and get this improved rendition. I do wish MGM had worked on some other bonus stuff, but I won’t complain since the release is superior to the original. But in case MGM is listening, we fans would love to see a special edition somewhere down the line. Now 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. The cast is superb and the writing is even better and on the whole, I simply can’t recommend this movie enough. This disc has a very attractive price tag, so whether you rent or buy you’re in safe hands.
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 does it look?
Fargo is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a full frame version included on the disc’s flip side. I am quite pleased with this transfer, as it eliminates most of the compression flaws found on the original release. I still saw a few here and there, but the ones that remain are minor and never distracting in the least. This film uses natural colors for the most part so you won’t see many brighter hues, but this transfer makes it all look terrific and flesh tones seem normal at all times. The contrast is stark and accurate, with bold shadow depth and no detail loss I could discern. Keep up the work, MGM!
Audio: How does it sound?
When you think of audio driven movies, Fargo isn’t one that should pop into your head since it uses dialogue to fuel the entire film. As such you won’t notice much in terms of surround use, but then again you’re not supposed to so this isn’t a bad mix. The music is very fitting and comes across well in this mix, though it isn’t as immersive as I would have liked. The audio picks up when the guns are brought into play, but the dialogue is the real star of this show. The vocals emerge in clear fashion, with no volume or separation problems.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains the film’s theatrical trailer and some production notes inside the liner booklet.