When you think about the Coen Brothers' 1996 masterpiece Fargo you likely think of it as a Frances McDormand movie. No doubt she created one of the more memorable roles of any film with Marge Gunderson (and won an Oscar for it), yet she doesn’t actually appear in the film until about 30 minutes in. No, if you are going by screen time or who the plot revolves around, then we must turn to Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy.) It is his incessant bungling of pretty much everything that moves the story from start to finish (with Marge cleaning it up brilliantly).
Poor Jerry, he really does muck everything up in every possible way. Before the film begins, he has gotten himself into some sort of financial trouble. We’re never given the details but perhaps it has to do with some fraudulent dealings over loans at his car lot on autos that don’t exist. Whatever the case, in-film he hatches a couple of plans to to get him out of trouble. The first has to do with building or buying a car lot as an investment. He brings it to his father-in-law Wade (Harve Presnell) - who hates Jerry with a passion - hoping for a loan for the lot but instead is offered a small finder's fee. The second, and more desperate plan involves hiring two hoods - Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife. The idea being that Wade will pay the ransom and Jerry will split it with the kidnappers.
Jerry is so inept that when the car lot initially looks good he has no way to call off the kidnapping. When his wife is abducted, Jerry has so little remorse that he is more concerned with sounding exactly perfect when he calls Wade that he forgets about his own son. Things quickly get worse from there, involving lots of bloodshot, multiple murders, and a small incident with the wood chipper.
After the first two killings, Police Chief (and seven months pregnant) Marge is called in to solve the crime. She is the perfect combining of character and performance. From her exaggerated accent to her Minnesota-nice attitude, and actually quite skilled at police work, she is brilliantly portrayed and created in every way. The whole movie is just about exactly perfect. The Brothers Coen took their mash of quirky humor, stylized violence, and oddball yet compelling characters to a whole other level with Fargo. I saw it three times in the theater when it first came out and I’ve seen it dozens of times since. It is a movie that never grows old and continues to gain my respect and admiration.
For this new edition, the print has been completely remastered though what, exactly, that encompassed is not disclosed. The film was released previously in 2009 on Blu-ray, and while I do not have a copy of it, reviews on the video quality range from decent to nearly unwatchable. This version looks wonderful. Roger Deakins was nominated for an Academy Award for his cinematography, and I still say he was robbed. Fargo is absolutely blanketed in white snow and Deakins' camera work is absolutely gorgeous. It all shines through on this Blu-ray.
The audio reportedly is the same from the earlier release, but it sounds quite good. Carter Burwell’s beautiful score shines while the dialogue is crisp and clear. It isn’t a sound-heavy film but small background noises are easily heard and little things, like the scraping of an ice-covered window, come in really well.
The extras likewise have been ported from the previous release. There is an audio commentary from Deakins. It is informative, but like a lot of artists doing commentaries he doesn’t seem to know how to fill out an entire film of commentary. Considering the number of long pauses, it would have been beneficial to have filled it out with some voices of other people involved with the film or perhaps someone who could have asked Deakins some questions to pull him out a bit. There is a very nice half-hour EPK with lots of interviews of the Coens and all of the major actors. A Trivia Track can be played over the movie which is fun, but it leans towards more pointless info (often defining various words in the script) than actually discussing aspect of the film. Rounding out the extras are a photo gallery, the trailer, and a reprint of an article from American Cinematographer.
Fargo is one of the very best films to have come out in my lifetime. It is an essential movie for any film fan to own. I won’t say the same for this particular release. If you do not already own a copy, then I’d say this is the one to get, but if you already purchased the Blu-ray in 2009, I’m not sure it's worth buying again. It's a shame they didn't find some new extras.