Luke Thorne’s review published on Letterboxd:
Joel Coen directs this Oscar-winning crime thriller about a car salesman whose plan to have his wife abducted goes wrong. Starring Frances McDormand and William H Macy.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s previous movie was the comedy The Hudsucker Proxy, which got a very bad reception, both critically and commercially. Now, their next film Fargo sees them back to their best – in a sometimes disturbing way.
Set in Minnesota in 1987, the story concerns Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a car salesman in Minneapolis who has found himself in trouble and is so frantic for cash that he employs two brutes (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to abduct his own wife, Jean (Kristin Rudrüd).
Jerry will gather the payment from her rich father (Harve Presnell), paying the criminals a small share and keeping the rest to gratify his debts. The scheme all goes badly wrong when the muggers shoot a national trooper.
Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare both give respectable performances in their respective roles as Carl and Gaear, the two thugs who cause as much trouble as they possibly can, while Kristin Rudrüd is Jean, Jerry’s wife who finds herself in a horrible situation.
There is a solid supporting performance to be had from William H. Macy in his part as Jerry Lundegaard, the man who really needs help, but his plan doesn’t go the way he was hoping it too. He suits his role really well and gives one of the most memorable roles of his career.
But the best performance, by a mile, goes to Frances McDormand in her role as Marge Gunderson, a Minnesota police chief who is expecting, and also acts like she is determined to solve the three murders that have occurred. She suits her role excellently, stealing scenes in the process and this is one of the most memorable roles and best performances of her career.
The direction from Joel Coen (a pity that Ethan is uncredited) is excellent because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, while also keeping a very tense atmosphere happening as well and the script is written to a decent standard by Joel and Ethan Coen as they make the movie good to follow.
The technical aspects that stand out best are the camera and editing, because the camera makes very good use of the locations and also captures the tense and dramatic moments well, which get the edge-of-the-seat status; the film is edited to an excellent effect.
The movie managed to win 2 Academy Awards: Best Actress (Frances McDormand) and Best Original Screenplay (Joel and Ethan Coen) and these awards were deserved. The Academy also nominated the movie for: Best Picture, Best Director (Joel Coen), Best Supporting Actor (William H. Macy), Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins) and Best Film Editing (Joel and Ethan Coen).
At the British Academy Film Awards, Joel Coen won the award for Best Director, while the movie got nominations for: Best Film, Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.
At the Golden Globes, the movie won nominations for: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actress – Musical or Comedy (Frances McDormand), Best Director (Joel Coen) and Best Screenplay (Joel and Ethan Coen).
The latter two nominations were deserved, but I question the first two – how is Fargo a comedy movie? There are some moments in this movie that I consider to be funny, which is decent as it means the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I do believe these nominations should have been in the respective drama categories.
Some of the violence can be disturbing in places, but it is part of the story, so it has to be included, otherwise I would be talking about a completely different movie altogether. However, it is the gory violence that makes sure the film earns 18 certificate from the British Board of Film Classification.
Overall, it can be uncomfortable and disturbing on occasions, but the Coen brothers Fargo sees them back to their best. This works very well due to the excellent performances from Frances McDormand and William H. Macy, along with the excellent direction, script, tense atmosphere, camerawork and editing. It’s not my personal favourite to have been made in this year, but it is the best 18 film from 1996.