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Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

United States 1996 98 mins In English

One of the great films of the 1990s, the Coen Brothers’ taut, darkly funny thriller follows a bumbling criminal conspiracy involving used-Oldsmobile-salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), two hired thugs/killers (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare), and the pregnant small-town police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), who is unwittingly tasked with undoing their nefarious scheme when one day she comes upon a grisly scene on the Minnesota plains outside Brainerd. Thickly atmospheric and perfectly steeped in authentic “Minnesota nice,” the Coens’ most well-known yarn tackles the existential crises of the snow-bound mind in a capitalist world, where greed corrupts simple comfort and it’s hard to feel like you’ve got enough. Fargo, nominated for several Oscars—McDormand winning Best Actress and the Coens winning Best Screenplay, deservedly so on both counts—remains a crucial entry in the Coens’ filmography and one of the great winter films.

[This] smartly constructed, wickedly executed black comedy about the inherent weirdness of people, a satire reflecting how humanity’s grand, inevitably failed gestures (represented here by cinematographer Roger Deakins’s Lawrence of Arabia-pinching opening shots and composer Carter Burwell’s insistently, hilariously ethnic dirges) are no match for mankind’s pettiness and stupidity.  — Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine

Genres: Thriller, Comedy

Appears in: Essential Cinema