Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi
Screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen
Directed by Joel Coen
Running time 98 minutes
Our last film In The Heat Of The Night was a claustrophobic, small town murder story set in the stifling, southern heat of Sparta, Mississippi. Fargo also spins a deadly yarn but it could not be more different in tone nor in its northern setting - the frozen winter landscapes of Minnesota. Once again a local police chief is in charge of the investigation but this time her name is Marge Gunderson and she is seven months pregnant…
Fargo is the seventh film by the Coen brothers - a remarkable partnership that has produced some of the most distinctive work in modern cinema. From their-low budget noir debut Blood Simple in 1984 through the jet black satire of Barton Fink, the stoner classic The Big Lebowski and the knockabout musical twist on Homer's Odyssey Oh Brother Where Art Thou the Coens' movies have been consistently original, often very funny and shot through with a dark sensibility that gets to the heart of modern America.
In Fargo a struggling car salesman’s inept kidnap plan backfires and unleashes murder and mayhem on the community. William H. Macy is squirm-inducing as the hopeless culprit and Frances McDormand hilarious and unforgettable as the pregnant cop with morning sickness and an unerring nose for sniffing out crime. The supporting characters are endearingly bizarre - with the strange Scandic accent of the region providing some sublime comic moments.
Roger Deakins’ luminous cinematography perfectly captures the icy vistas while Carter Burwell’s folk-inflected score permeates the film with a weird, mournful beauty.
Nearly twenty years later a highly successful TV series inspired by the original film is now in its third season.
Don’t be fooled by the caption at the beginning claiming Fargo is based on true events and that only the names have been changed to protect the survivors. It’s all made up - but the quirky details of the fictional protagonists and their eccentric world make this a rare and unusual pleasure.