Directed and written by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
It often seems when wandering through a video store, or scrolling through a list of films, that the modern crime genre is absolutely overflowing with clone and copy flicks about botched plans, messy killings and dark humour. The Coen Brothers’ Fargo, the inspiration for many of these films, stands out nearly twenty years later for one simple reason; it manages to tell a truly beautiful and sensitive story against the backdrop of one of the coldest settings in cinema, both physically and metaphorically. This movie could be sold alone on the cold captured through the eyes of the Coens and Roger Deakins. However, you should watch the whole thing.
Fargo tells the story of a man, played wonderfully and pathetically by William H. Macy, who organises his wife’s kidnapping. It slides out as a twisting storyline, an outstanding screenplay that won an Academy Award, and while it draws the observer in, it is the mood and characters that will haunt you in the aftermath of what you have seen.
Frances McDormand’s Oscar winning Marge is one of those characters you would be lucky to have grace your life. Her portrayal of the upbeat sheriff tasked with following the case turning her town’s snow red is unflinchingly human, something often left out of the ‘happy’ character in movies. As mentioned before, you’d feel sorry for Jerry if only he weren’t so damn snivelling. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare play the criminals tasked with kidnapping the wife and spending their time in borrowed cars, motels and the permanent layers of winter wear. They are mouse and lion respectively, perfectly playing off one another in an unusual way that pretends to scream cliché but triumphs in a dark and intelligent way.
The entire movie exists in a sort of parallel universe; something the Coen’s clearly crafted, probably smiling at each other by opening with ‘This is a True Story’. Everything that happens seems as if it really did, leaving me wondering how Fargo is doing now, all these years later. Every character was living and dying with true breaths; we get to see the highlight reel, but also the slivers of life that push through and shine with personality.
For such a twisted and dark story, this picture has more real moments than many that come to mind. The Coens understand that we haven’t all tried to run a kidnapping scheme, haven’t murdered people in the snow, hell, maybe they know we haven’t felt the cold of a Dakota winter. What they do know is that we’ve all had a family in some way, conventional or abstract. They’re also painfully aware that we’ve all been woken up too early to go somewhere we didn’t want to go and forced down eggs our stomachs weren’t quite ready for.