Classic Intel: Fargo - Online Review

'you just don't get many central characters who are female, middle-aged, smart and pregnant. Rarely do you even get two of those.'

This was the third time I had seen Fargo all of the way through and the first time it had struck me as the masterpiece that many have proclaimed it for years. Perhaps it took the movement of time - into a period where the Cop Thriller is a by-word for recycled tropes and predictable plots, and where smaller, cleverer Thrillers seem more or less non-existent - in order for me to appreciate it, or perhaps it is a film that keeps on giving over a number of views until it gives you as much as it can. Whatever the reason: this viewing was the viewing where I finally 'got' Fargo.

Fargo moves with the quiet confidence that imbues many of the best films and much of The Coen Brothers' work (Joel is listed as director here, during the days when the Directors Guild of America would not let the brothers officially split the role). Barely a scene is wasted, though the late night call and subsequent scenes between Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) and 'Mikey' (Steve Park) still feel like they add little. Possibly the point is to show that things are a little weird around here but that there's weird like Mikey and weird like attacking someone with an axe. Marge can only shrug off so much.

The patience of individual scenes extends to Fargo as a whole. The Coens move things along only when they are ready to. The story unfolds naturally, in an unhurried manner which makes each individual escalation all the more shocking and believable. Like a geyser, Gaear (Peter Stormare) erupts only when the pressure of the situations means he believes he needs to. On the flip side, Jerry (William H. Macy) is given just the right amount of opportunity to end his miserable scheme. Every time he declines to he is as guilty as the sudden violence of Gaear or lack of communication from Carl (Steve Buscemi). Each character reacts in just the right way to keep a cockamammy scheme heading for disaster, but never do you feel they are not reacting in exactly the way their character should be.

Whilst each character does their bit it is Marge and the terrific McDormand who make Fargo principally what it is: for a start, you just don't get many central characters who are female, middle-aged, smart and pregnant. Rarely do you even get two of those. Marge is just far enough ahead of her colleagues ('I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work there Lou') to get close to the criminals, but not far enough ahead of them to deny the Coens their macabre fun. Her monologue at the end (and her pregnancy), talking to both Gaear and us, shows the film's simple desire for life over idiocy and greed, though even Marge cannot fully combat the latter two.

It is greed primarily which ultimately drives the film, and is the reason for the slow burn, as it reaches each character in turn and Fargo becomes a 100-minute version of one seventh of Seven. Jerry wants money and goes to extreme lengths to get it. Carl and Gaear want more money than originally agreed: eventually to their downfall. Wade (Harve Presnell) has two chances to, if not end the problem, then at least to mitigate it, but declines to do so because he wants to keep his money. The least greedy character in the film is, unsurprisingly, directly related to Marge: John Carroll Lynch as her husband Norm, who seems to care little whether he wins a contest he is involved in and performs several mundane selfless acts to enable Marge to go about her business, bringing the greedy to face justice.

Fargo was streaming on Netflix UK.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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