A car salesman plans to wipe out his personal debts by hiring a pair of colorful crooks to kidnap his wife and have her wealthy father pay the ransom. The haphazard scheme turns sour during a routine pull-over that leaves three dead bodies in its wake.


“The real horror of Fargo is that many of the characters have thoughtlessly bought into the ‘sunny’ veneer of American culture and the empty promise of ‘the American Dream’, but at the same time they seem unable to reconcile those impossible visions of optimism with the persistent troubles that plague their lives –  often caused by their own lack of self-awareness. Jerry Lundegaard is the walking epitome of this pervasive emotional crisis; but we also find glimpses of it even in the most minor characters, such as the cashier at the diner, whose forced smile and false-cheerful attitude threaten to crack wide open at any moment.”

Rodney F. Hill1  


Fargo, more than any of the Coens’ other work, is a study in contrast, namely in the sense that it’s made by two people who were clearly at one time insiders, but who have now taken the opportunity to see the Midwestern template from the outside. As such, every interaction in the film registers as a direct reflection of incongruous elements and repressed tensions.

The plot itself is a contradiction. It’s on the surface a neo-noir crime drama, but the story isn’t spiked with twists, and the law seems firmly in command of the situation. What’s more, as represented by McDormand’s doughtily pregnant, perpetually parka-covered police detective Marge Gunderson, the law is the film’s most empathetic presence. As she professionally, unhurriedly solves one of cinema’s most open-and-shut cases (Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard commissions two hired hitmen to kidnap his wife and hopes the crime will pry some money out of his boss/father-in-law’s wallet, and is horrified when everything unravels after a routine pullover), she also waddles through a series of seeming non sequiturs, all of which accentuate the relationship between outstate Minnesota and the Twin Cities, between behavior and intuition, between considered silence and chatty idiocy, between ‘Mack-Donalds’ and Crockpot-simmered ‘sup-purr.’ [...]

Do you have to be a Minnesotan to really get Fargo? As the saying goes, you could do a lot worse. But even beyond the regional colloquialisms and the broad accents, which most of us in the Twin Cities are quick to claim are more the province of the outstate crowd, is another 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. In the end, all the righteous bloodshed in the world isn’t even worth a three-cent stamp.”

Eric Henderson2

UPDATED ON 06.06.2023