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Fargo (Blu-ray Review)

fargo whysoblu coverCrossing another feature off my list of modern classics that are favorite films mine, which I have now written a review for, Fargo has returned to Blu-ray once again, with a new remastered transfer.  This Oscar-winning Coen Brothers film has had its share of releases in the past and even if there is still bound to be another release in the future (its 20th anniversary is a couple years away), the film is still as strong as ever, with a great new transfer to make it look and sound better than ever.  You betcha can read on to learn more about this new Blu-ray release.

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Film:

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Fargo is basically a kidnapping thriller, except it happens to also be a very funny dark comedy.  Set mainly in Brainerd, Minnesota, this is the story of a desperate man (William H. Macy) enlisting two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his own wife, in an effort to make some money from her wealthy father.  Things go immediately sour, as these criminals only make matters worse for themselves by murdering a cop and some innocent bystanders.  These actions put local police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) on the scene, who is very pregnant, but also very good at her job.  This mystery will need to be solved of course, but one thing’s for sure, it would be very surprising if the suspects were from Brainerd.

This movie never ceases to bring me joy, from the first time I saw it to the twentieth, and yes, I have seen it quite a few times.  It is so offbeat, so quotable, and full of so many memorable moments that it is no surprise that the film has found its way into so many “Best of” lists, various AFI lists, and even the US National Film Registry.  Even thinking of Fargo outside of the actual film is entertaining to me.  It is a story that claims to be based on a true story and is titled Fargo, yet neither is accurate.  There is no “true” story here, just one inspired by a number of different anecdotes and the film has one scene that takes place in Fargo, North Dakota, and it is about as inconsequential to the rest of the film as it gets.

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Speaking beyond the general praise, the Coen’s did an impeccable job at casting this film, as all the main players are fantastic in what amounts to roles that each cast member could list as one of their best credits.  I recently named Frances McDormand as one of the best Oscar-winning performances of all time and I stand by that.  She has a cheery demeanor, but is also a very smart cop and a loving wife.  Her relationship with her husband Norm, played by John Carroll Lynch, continues to be just about the most adorable onscreen relationship of the past few decades, despite sitting within a dark crime story.  Everything about how Marge is portrayed and involved in this story (which she does not even enter, until about 20 minutes into the film) is something I really love AND we still have a number of other great characters to talk about.

William H. Macy plays a horrible person in this film, yet the world in which this film exists is handled in such a way that you just have to see where things go with him.  Sure, the accents are over-the-top, but that is very much a stylistic touch that puts this film in a distinct world, rather than a grounded reality, much like most Coen Brother features.  With Macy, his “Minnesota nice” accent matches perfectly with the dark deeds he involves himself in.  Speaking of which, the criminal team of Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare is great.  These two have hilarious interactions with each other and of course a deadly resolve that will never be forgotten by those who have seen this film.  There are plenty of other characters I could talk about (Mike Yanagita, how the heck are ya!), but I must move on.

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True to form, the Coen’s have also made a beautiful film that is reflected in this newly remastered edition.  Roger Deakins provides such great atmosphere for this film, set in a snowy winter, with shots of white landscapes that just go on and on.  There are some clever touches surrounding the shots and framing of various characters as well, but this is a film that really finds a way to inject sweeping shots into a quirky character story/crime drama.  Carter Burwell’s score is certainly up to the challenge of providing an interesting sort of emphasis on various scenes as well, given the juggling between darker material and comedic scenes.

Joel and Ethan Coen won an Oscar for their Fargo screenplay.  It truly is an impressive piece of work that also fits into the rare category of Coen Brother films where the bad guys get a level of comeuppance that is not shared by the good guys.  As the Coens are often criticized for being mean to their characters, it actually is neat to see Fargo standing as one of the few where the majority of the main cast is made up of villains that pretty much deserve what is coming to them.  That could be why Fargo sits high as one of their more accessible features.  Regardless, I love this movie and am always happy to revisit it.

Video:

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Encoding:  MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution:  1080p

Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  While Fargo has been featured on Blu-ray before and the transfer was not a bad one, this remaster has done a fine job of making the picture look even better.  As I am known for always praising the look of snow on Blu-ray when I get a chance, this is a great opportunity to praise how much I love seeing the vast amount of snow featured in this film look so clear.  The balance between indoor and outdoor scenes also benefits from the elimination of video noise found in the previous releases, making for a more detailed look at many of the different locations in this film.

Depth:  With the snowy landscapes that are featured, one does get a good sense of depth made possible by this new transfer.  Certain shots of a character seen from a distance amidst a grand backdrop make for some impressive scenes of depth, given the nature of this film and its general low-budget quality.

Black Levels:  One particular scene I watched to talk about this.  It is a scene where the only lighting comes from some car lights, amidst a nighttime landscape and the black levels were greatly reproduced for this Blu-ray.

Color Reproduction:  When considering colors, one would be surprised how colorful Fargo actually is.  While there is a drabness to be scene in some of the settings, lots of flannels and places like a used car lot have a surprising amount of colors that look great, matched against the winter setting.

Flesh Tones:  Faces look more natural and textured.  The close-ups that exist in this film feel warmly represented in a way that benefits this transfer.

Noise/Artifacts:  Shot on film and nearly 20 years old enough work was done to minimize the amount of noise that used to be found, despite the natural amount of grain still being present.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s):  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Surround Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles:  English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics:  Whether it is the score by Carter Burwell or the dialogue-heavy scenes, this film sounds great and the Blu-ray does a fine job of balancing the different auditory aspects of this film.  It is a bit hard to really nail down a difference in this remaster, as far as the audio goes, but minor effects certainly sound a bit cleaner in the background.

Low Frequency Extension:  This really only applies to the big musical sweeps that sometimes pop-up, though a scene like the kidnapping that occurs or even the chainsaw sequence are aided by what was coming through my sub-woofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Well-balanced all around, with no trouble hearing the different aspects of the audio in scenes that required a blend of different audio material.  It plays through to different parts of my surround system that is effective in all the right ways.

Dialogue Reproduction:  As the film is dialogue-heavy, hearing all the Coen Brother’s dialogue continues to be loud and clear here.

 

Extras:

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The extras are identical to the features found on previous editions of Fargo, which I expected, as it is the case with many of the other new remasters that have come out on Blu-ray recently.

Features Include:

  • Commentary with Director of Photography Roger A. Deakins – Lots of big pauses to be found in this commentary track, though there is insight to be heard now and again.
  • Minnesota Nice Documentary – A decent behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film.
  • Trivia Track
  • Still Photo Gallery
  • American Cinematographer Article
  • Theatrical Trailer

Summary:

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Fargo is an all-time great for me, so it is not hard to heap praise on this film.  The cast is fantastic, the script is incredible, and the directorial and visual touches to make this film so entertaining and beautiful, amidst the darkness buried in the story are a great thing to behold.  The Blu-ray benefits from its new remastered video and audio transfer.  While not leaps and bounds better in the same way that Robocop was, this is still the best Fargo has look and sounded at home yet, despite having a repeat of the same special features.  If you are looking to get this 90s classic, pick it up now!

Order Your Copy Here:

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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