The movie begins with a lie: “This is a true story.” Parts of it are based on real events, but most of it’s entirely made up. But from the moment the film fades out from black to show a snowy, foggy road, you forget about the opening statement and become immersed in the story and actually believe you are watching a true story.
That story is about a car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard. He’s in serious debt, so he hires two criminals to kidnap his wife, and then spilt the ransom money from his father in law. It all goes smoothly until the criminals get pulled over, and are forced to do some shooting. Enter Marge Gunderson, a jolly police chief who is sent out to investigate the murders. After that, Jerry’s scheme goes from bad to worse as…well, that would be spoiling the many surprises that follow…
Fargo runs at 1 hour and 38 minutes, and it makes every second count. From setting up the characters, to showing the plan fall apart, the outbursts of violence and the moments in-between of these people just being people, it not only manages to be an engaging thriller, but a hugely entertaining movie at the same time, supported by some brilliant acting that makes the characters feel real, the impressive cinematography, the haunting music and a tightly written script that keeps you hooked from the first scene at the bar to the final moments at Marge’s house.
Despite all the other brilliance in the film, the thing that makes it so special is that all the main characters are likeable. Yes, most of them might be murderers, but they’re still people just trying to get through the day, which makes for many entertaining and memorable moments. And then there’s the character you’re supposed to like, Marge. Amidst all the murders she has to solve, the people she has to interview and the violence she witnesses, she takes us through every other scene with a big grin and a pleasant attitude.
A few days after I first saw Fargo, I watched it again. And a third time a couple more days later. In the space of a week, it has become one of my favourite films of all time. Maybe it’s not based on a true story, but does it still make for a truly brilliant movie? Ya darn tootin’ it does!