"Fargo" Blu-ray Review
May 20, 2009 by Zach Demeter
The 1996 seven-time Oscar nominated film Fargo has been talked about for years and become a classic among film buffs. Although the relatively short film (with a run time of barely over an hour and a half) was self contained, it went on to reach heights of cult appeal like < was self contained, it went on to reach heights of cult appeal like Pulp Fiction, with questions left unanswered and fans posturing about its events. Although based off of several true events that happened in Minnesota over the span of a few years, the film’s story is not centered around any one of these events and is instead an amalgam of the two, making the intro the film a little misleading…but that certainly didn’t keep the film from winning Supporting Actor, Actress, and Original Screenplay Oscars.
In this seven-time Oscar Nominated film, thigns go terribly awry when small-time Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so he can collect the ransom from his wealthy farther-in-law. Once people start dying, the very chipper and very pregnant Police Chief Marge (Frances McDormand) takes the case. Will she stop at nothing until she gets her man? You betcha.
As popular as this film was, I actually didn’t end up seeing it until after the Coen Brothers more recent outings (Burn After Reading, No Country For Old Men, and even The Big Lebowski…not recent, but still). Considering they all followed a theme of unpredictability, I didn’t exactly know what to expect from Fargo, other than a good time. What I was greeted with was an absolutely fantastic score by Carter Burwell (who’s work I first noticed while watching In Bruges, another similarly dark comedy like this film) immediately as the film began and I was absolutely astonished at how fast the film ropes you in. It’s easy to like and easy to get acquainted with and although the characters are “new” to you, you immediately feel connected to them somehow.
While the film by now has had its most famous moments immortalized, such as the wood chipper or Marge’s quaint and always upbeat attitude (I mean look at it, for pete sakes—they basically pointed it out on the rear cover of this Blu-ray release with that last sentence), there’s still something fresh feeling about this film. Sure, I was let down when I found out it wasn’t actually based on true events (I’m a sucker for movies that start off with that), but reflecting on it, I realize it didn’t matter—this was still such an excellent film regardless, that I didn’t really care that’d been duped slightly.
Everything about the film was brilliantly paced an executed. From the shocking violence to the (very dark) comedy of Steve Buscemi laughing at the kidnapped, tied, and blindfolded wife he was hired to kidnap, stumble around the woods aimlessly and fall over repeatedly. It’s an odd film in moments like these, as you find yourself laughing at moments you don’t necessarily feel you should be…but it’s just staged and filmed in such a way you have no real choice but to laugh.
Even in the films absurdity there is plenty of drama, but it never feels like it weighs the film down. While nowhere near as comical as Burn After Reading, I would peg this film somewhere between that and No Country For Old Men (which was deadly serious through and through). Although at this point comparing this film to their other works seems backwards, but hey…that’s all I can do when I watch this one in such an out of order combination as this.
Overall most know what to expect from Fargo at this point, but as late as I am to the game to enjoy some of these modern classics, I’m still glad as it gives me a little something unique (I like to think, anyway…but probably not) to discuss about films that have otherwise been reviewed and discussed ad infinitum. Highly Recommended.
Fox has released Fargo on Blu-ray in a standard Elite Blu-ray case, complete with Eco-Friendly holes. A single insert advertising a few other MGM titles is included, but other than that it’s a completely bare release inside, with only the disc itself, which mimics the cover art with its disc art. Menu’s are simple and easy to navigate, mainly because there just isn’t a whole lot here to check out anyway.
Stepping into the AVC encoded (@31mbps) 1.85:1 video transfer I was immediately met with concern. The opening of the film, with its stark white roads, was a visual mess; banding, film grain, color flickering and just about every ugly component of a bad VHS tape you could think of (without the scan lines or anything, of course) were present here. I chalked it up to its age and hoped it wouldn’t reflect poorly on the rest of the film and…honestly, it didn’t. The picture for the rest of the film (barring any snow blasted exterior shots) is fantastic, offering a film-like quality to the entire picture from start (well, after the snow bit anyway) to finish. Detail is high, colors are strong and everything about the transfer past that ugly intro looks great. There are slight hints of DNR here and there, but very few and, again, it rears its head most in that intro to the film, likely as an attempt to cut down on whatever uglier transfer it housed underneath.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is a strong front channel focused mix, with barely any deviation and splitting into the surrounds; occasionally a scream or gunshot will reverb, but not much. Overall a quiet but satisfactory track, which is backed up with a slew of foreign language options including English DD, Spanish, French, German, Italian 5.1 DTS and Portuguese and Spanish 5.1DD. Also included are English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Extras? Nothing new here. This is a straight port from the previous DVD release. Included:
Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Roger A. Deakins
Minnesota Nice (27:47)
American Cinematographer Article
Still Photo Gallery
While a decent mix, none of it really impresses all that much and the commentary without the director’s is an incredibly curious addition…but, hey. I’ll take what I can get, I suppose.
Overall a solid release, but if you already own the previous DVD release there may not be much use upgrading to this Blu-ray, unless you’re just plain irked by the previous releases quality in terms of video and audio (which are really quite exceptional here). Recommended for newcomers, but previous owners will have to decide how much they really love the film before plunking down the cash.
Fargo is now available on Blu-ray.