Movie classics – Fargo (1996)
Joel and Ethan Coen had been making quirky, innovative films for over ten years before the release of Fargo, but it was this movie – set mainly in their flat, snow-bound home state of Minnesota - that cemented the brothers’ spot on Hollywood’s A-list.
With a plot revolving around a car salesman’s attempts to clear his huge debts by having his wife kidnapped – a scheme which goes predictably and horribly wrong – Fargo quickly reveals itself to be a very different creature to the myriad mid-90s Tarantino-esque crime thrillers it sometimes finds itself lumped in with.
For starters it’s funny. Really funny. The Coens direct their focus on Minnesotan mannerisms and culture – the “Oh, yahs”, the oppressive cheeriness, the all-you-can-eat buffets – to hilarious effect, and the dialogue is absurd in an all too believable way:
Officer Olson: What'd this guy look like, anyway?
Mr. Mohra: Oh, he was a little guy... kinda funny lookin'.
Officer Olson: Uh-huh. In what way?
Mr. Mohra: Oh, just in a general kinda way.
This could come off as cruel in less capable hands, but Fargo doesn’t lack a heart. For all the wickedness, greed and violence on display (you’ll never look at a woodchipper the same way), the film doesn’t let you forget that there are still good people in the world. And that’s mainly down to Frances McDormand’s Oscar-winning performance as pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson, who views in the world in a simpler but entirely more agreeable way than the movie’s many villains.
Fargo, £10 on Blu-ray from Amazon