Movie: Fargo (1996, English, US)

Fargo, a 1996 crime thriller with black humor, is based in Fargo (Minesotta, USA) and a nearby town – Brainerd. The events in the movie take place around 1987.

Here is a quote from the movie:

“So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’t you know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well, I just don’t understand it”.

– Police Chief Marge Gunderson, talking to a kidnapper, after apprehending him

Fargo Movie DVD Cover Image

Directed by Joel Coen
Released in 1996
Genre Crime, Black Humor
Cast
  • Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson (the Police Chief)
  • William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard (the Car Dealership Manager)
  • Steve Buscemi as Carl Showalter (a kidnapper)
  • Peter Stormare as Gaear Grimsrud (another kidnapper)
  • Harve Presnell as Wade Gustafson (Jerry’s father-in-law)
  • Kristin Rudrüd as Jean Lundegaard (Jerry’s wife)
  • Tony Denman as Scotty Lundegaard (Jerry’s son)
Music by Carter Burwell
Produced by Ethan Coen
Language English
Length 1 hour 38 minutes

The Plot

Fargo, a crime thriller with black humor, is based in Fargo (Minesotta, USA) and a nearby town – Brainerd. The events are placed  somewhere around 1987.

Jerry Lundegaard (played by William Macy), is the manager of a car dealership belonging to his rich businessman father-in-law, Wade Gustafson. Jerry has low capability and high ambitions.

He is also in money trouble, and is desperate to get a large amount. Jerry plans out an harebrained,  criminal scheme to get some money out of his father-in-law. He hires two goons to kidnap his wife, so that he can extract the ransom money from his father-in-law. He promises to share the ransom with the thugs.

The plan goes awry and spirals into uncontrollable chaos. The kidnappers are not very bright and one of them has a huge affinity for violence. Many people get killed in the process. Police Chief Marge Gunderson (played by Frances McDormand), in the late stages of her pregnancy doggedly chases the clues and pursues all the threads till she solves the case, while coping with her pregnancy and associated morning sickness and the need to eat frequently.

A Classic

The movie begins with:

“This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”

Well, the statement itself is fictitious, but is a great start to the movie (the same opening statement continues in the tele-serial with the same name).

Here are some of the things I really liked about the movie:

  • It is quirky with lots of black humor
  • Unforgettable scenery, snowy landscape – bleak and stark. There are times when the whole screen is filled with a white landscape with just a hint of a vehicle
  • The simple interactions between the characters
  • The strange accent and figures of speech (supposedly linked with Scandinavian / Nordic languages)
  • Clearly etched out characters – especially Marge, Jerry and the two kidnappers
  • Violence – shown simply, without apology or glorification
  • The acting by Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson (the Police Chief)
  • The pace never seems hurried, yet it is captivating

It is a short movie – less than 100 minutes, and it will keep you glued.

Here is a trailer:

If the youtube clip does not load, use the url https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn7LOhWYtqE

Released in 1996, the movie was nominated for awards in seven categories in the 69th Academy Awards, and eventually won awards in two categories (best actress and best writing – original screenplay).

Fargo usually figures in the ‘best 100 movies ever’ lists compiled by magazines, websites, critics and other experts. Fargo was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and inducted into the United States National Film Registry for preservation.

The movie has inspired a 2014 TV series with the same name – the tele-series also received rave reviews.

I would like to close with one of my  favorite dialogues from the movie between Marge, the Police Chief and Lou, another cop (I may have exaggerated it, but what is given below is fairly representative):

Marge: “Yeah…”
Lou: “Oh, Yeah?”
Marge: “Yeah”
Lou: “Yeah!?!”

You can read reviews of movies and TV serials here (https://rajeshnaik.com/category/movies/).

Your comments are welcome!


I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

2 thoughts on “Movie: Fargo (1996, English, US)”

  1. I like thrillers with peppy dialogues. And this movie sounds right up my “like” category. Thanks for the preview. With the last week of the year setting in, the atmosphere is just right to watch this in leisure.

    Will I watch this one? Yeah, Oh Yeah.

    Wishing you and the readers (and writers) on your blog a Happy 2016. Looking forward to more blogging, more cartooning.

    Cheers
    Prakash

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