Retro Reviews: ‘Fargo’ (1996)

For this edition of ‘Retro Reviews’, I decided to watch one of the Coen brothers’ most beloved films ‘Fargo’ for the very first time. It is highly regarded as one of the best American films of the 90s and has received critical praise for the brothers’ wonderful screenwriting. ‘Fargo’ has won 2 Oscars, so I think that’s enough to make me watch this masterpiece.


The Coen Brothers present to us a non-typical murder story by mixing in a little idiosyncratic humor that manages to still make the film’s subject matter something to be taken as serious. The film’s narrative is quite simple, but it shouldn’t be taken as ordinary for it wholly complements that plainness by giving us wonderful moments in the form of zany situations and thrilling confrontations. These particular elements make the film so fascinating and gives us more than one reason to keep on watching since it clearly has knowledge on how to be enticing. Black humor, or so they call it is how this film should be classified. The film doesn’t have jokes scattered all around, but judging by the peculiar manner some sequences are presented, it could guarantee a chuckle or a grin which justifies the darkly comedic route that the film chooses to take.


Perhaps arguably the best thing about the film is how The Coens make the most use of the seemingly harmless environment through the throwing in of a sizable amount of violence that further emphasized the rather serious matters that the film tackles. Just when we thought that a snow-covered town couldn’t be any more innocent, the film changes our perception by imbuing violent acts that could shock or disturb. It is through the film’s setting where it truly shines as it fully embraces the environment’s vanilla-esque nature with the use of the delightful cinematography that lets us indulge in the clean-white snow up until it gets stained by blood. That notion alone gives it an amount of maturity even if it can get a little quirky.


Speaking of quirkiness, it is through the odd characters where the film’s tone switches up. This is best seen in William H. Macy’s inept schemer who gets caught up in all the trouble when matters get worse. The manner his uttering of words could likely result to us believing that his character possesses that maladroit characteristic, and Macy gave us his best to make it believable with the use of his laughable facial expressions. McDormand’s beloved role of Marge Gunderson is something we can all indulge in. Her awkward but skilled personality adds laughs to the film’s context as she investigates this amateur-ish crime and gets entangled in  one hilarious encounter as seen in one of the film’s funniest scenes. However, her awkwardness is best witnessed in one confrontation scene with Macy’s Jerry wherein humor and tension gets mixed together to produce a hilarious moment where we can feel Jerry’s nervosity and Marge’s calmness. Even with McDormand and Macy luring in all the praise, the two supporting characters of Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare are always amusing as a tandem who doesn’t like each others’ company. But between the two, Stormare is the one whom I liked the most because of his silent but violent persona which is impossible not to love most notably during the film’s harrowing climax.


The Coens truly showcase their brilliance and resourcefulness to make something extraordinary out of  sheer simplicity in one of their earliest films ‘Fargo’. Darkly funny and thrilling, it is a unique masterwork as The Coens weaved a narrative plain as the snow but has hidden excellence in its’ memorable characters, interesting dialogue and overall creative structure.

4/5 stars.


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