Anthony's Film Review

Fargo (1996)

A solid and gripping crime thriller thanks to the cast and the script...

The first scene in Fargo, taking place at a bar in Fargo, North Dakota, starts the movie very nicely for two reasons. It clearly presents three of the characters and who they are, and it portrays one of them as someone whom you wouldn't expect to be in this kind of scene. Basically, car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is in so much debt that he concocts a scheme to have two thugs, Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare), to kidnap his wife and demand a ransom from Jerry's rich but stingy father-in-law. Just in the few minutes the scene runs, we see that Jerry seems like a very nice man. He just happens to consider a kidnapping ransom a cash source that is as legitimate as an inheritance. In contrast, Carl is a talkative but tough guy whom characters later describe as funny-looking, and Gaear, unlike Carl, is a cold and mute thug.

The main reason that this plot premise definitely works is the characters' expectations. Jerry, the nice man who just needs money, thinks this will work out as long as nobody dies, and the thugs expect to get their share of the ransom. Unfortunately, some innocent people do die, just by unexpectedly getting in the way. If there is one thing to like in a thriller like this, it's a plot that gets twisted with complications. The Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, who have written the script for Fargo, are masters at this sort of thing. The movie is definitely in good hands.

Once this madness starts, it's time for the movie's other memorable character to step into the spotlight. Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), a pregnant police chief of Brainerd, Minnesota, investigates the deaths of the innocent people. She is a very interesting character in that, throughout the film, she exhibits a pleasant mannerism in her speech, even when she's speaking professionally with another officer or interviewing a possible suspect. But don't let that persona fool you. She proves that she can finish any job.

It is worth noting some of the Coen brothers' film trademarks. With regards to setting, they like to focus on a specific geographical location and portray the regional dialect in a somewhat exaggerated way. With Fargo, they provide a glimpse of North Dakota and Minnesota in the Upper Northwest and the folks who often say "yeah" (more like "yah") with a smile. Also, note the cinematography. There are creative uses of distant shots, continuous shots, and other techniques to get you to pay attention to certain things.

The last thing I'll mention is the source material. The film actually begins with a statement that the movie is based on a true story with names changed, out of respect for the survivors, but otherwise told exactly as they happened, out of respect for the dead. It's not really one event but several true crime stories that the Coen brothers combined into the story for Fargo. Regardless, it gives the story an extra emotional element, and even if it's entirely fictional, the Coen brothers still wrote a fantastic script. So with this and the performances of a well-chosen cast, Fargo was a memorable moviewatching experience.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Fargo, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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