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Ultra HD : For Fans Only
Ranking:
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Release Date: November 7th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1996

Fargo: Collector's Edition - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

4K UHD Review By: Billy Russell
Shout! Factory releases one of the best films of the 1990s, Fargo, now in 4K. The film remains an iconic, quotable, nearly-perfect outing for the brothers Coen, even if the 4K UHD treatment isn’t anything spectacular. The Dolby Vision treatment is welcome and improves, slightly, on a previous remaster that was already nearly immaculate. For fans, you’ll want to own the latest upgrade—for everyone else, if you already own the Blu-ray, the improvements won’t be worth the double (or maybe even triple) dip. For Fans Only.

OVERALL:
For Fans Only
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray, NEW 4K Scan And Restoration Of The Original Camera Negative Supervised By Director Of Photography Roger A. Deakins
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p HEVC/H.265 Dolby Vision HDR / HDR10
Length:
98
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Release Date:
November 7th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

I think that the question, “What’s your favorite movie?” is almost impossible to answer. The answer depends on what day of the week it is, what mood you’re in, how old you are, and what moons are in alignment with other celestial objects. But my go-to, sort of generic answer in one of those bizarre “gun against your head” scenarios where you must answer or die is almost always Fargo, a movie I feel is almost perfect, from beginning to end.

Fargo, to me, represents the defenestration of cop movie clichés. In just about every movie you see that involves a cop investigating a murder as brutal as the one at the center of Fargo, the cop needs to spend sleepless nights pouring over boxes of evidence. The cop needs to have some sort of conflict with his/her wife/husband. They’ll need to become obsessed with the case. And there’s almost always a scene in a library with the cop studying microfiche.

Police Chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) does no such thing. She simply investigates the scene of the crime, gathers evidence, interviews witnesses and makes logical conclusions until she’s led to the murderers. In other words, she does police work.  As often as she can, she finds time to have lunch with her husband, who she loves very, very dearly. And she does all of this while pregnant. The last shot of the film, with Marge and her husband Norm (John Carroll Lynch) lying in bed together watching television is one of the sweetest endings of any movie. The Coen brothers have been called nihilistic or overly cynical, but that’s not the case here.

There’s an exaggerated realism to Fargo, from the way the case is handled, to the idiotic ways that everyone involved on the criminal side keeps screwing everything up. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) plots what he thinks is a perfect crime - to have his own wife kidnapped by Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), and then collect the ransom money to be paid by his father-in-law. The trouble is, none of these people are good at crime. Jerry underestimates how stingy his father-in-law can be, even in the face of a kidnapping and the safety of his own daughter. Carl and Grimsrud can barely even perform the task at hand, getting into more and more trouble along the way. Something that was supposed to occur without any bloodshed ends with seven people dead.

There are some movies where I try to think of my favorite scene, and I end up having to decide between about a dozen. Is favorite scene the one where Carl and Grimsrud get pulled over by a trooper and everything goes to hell, ending with a triple homicide? Is it the scene that seems like a non sequitur between Marge and her old classmate Mike Yanagita, which ends up being more important than we realize later on? The infamous, and so well-executed “wood chipper climax”? Hell, I even love the opening credits, with that incredible Carter Burwell score building and building into a triumphant symphony.

The Coen brothers often have incredibly stylized movies, but that usual style takes a back seat in Fargo, which isn’t to say it isn’t visually appealing - Roger Deakins’ cinematography is still killer, and the way he lights the snow is great stuff—but instead of these complex visuals, they shoot their scenes in very basic ways.  It’s all very standard Filmmaking 101 setups: You have a master shot for coverage and a couple of reversals (either internal or external) for emphasis during certain aspects of dialogue.  Some scenes are only shot in a master, with no cutting. This quasi-minimalist approach emphasizes the actual plot and the performances, instead. There aren’t any distractions in watching the macabre events unfold.

Fargo is about as tight and about as perfect as a movie can be. There aren’t any no scenes that should be excised for length. There’s nothing that doesn’t work. When the movie goes from funny to serious, from violent to light-hearted, there’s never any tonal whiplash. Every element of the film is handled perfectly. Every aspect of the filmmaking that went into its production is top-notch… everything compliments everything else. The cinematography is gorgeous and subtle (I love the shot of Jerry in his office and his window blinds looking like the bars on a jail cell), the score is brilliant, and each and every performance in the movie is perfectly cast. Frances McDormand earned the hell out of her Oscar, Steve Buscemi is probably going to be forever associated with this movie, Peter Stormare is one of the scariest characters in any Coen brothers movie (that includes Anton Chigurh) and William H. Macy plays such a conniving, sniveling weasel so effectively.

In Fargo, the traditional “male” and “female” gender roles between Marge and Norm are swapped, but the movie never dwells on it or acts like it’s making some profound statement. That Margie earns the bacon while her talented husband perfects his artistic abilities is never flatly stated, it’s just how their relationship works. And they’re a great movie couple, one of my favorites.

In some ways, Fargo is like a film school lesson all of its own. Feasibly, it’s a movie someone with a low budget could shoot all on their own because there’s no real reliance on special effects or action sequences or anything else. The movie instead relies on storytelling through great dialogue, genius plotting, and strong performances. This is a movie anyone could make. The only thing required is a whole boatload of raw talent. And if you’ve got that talent, you too could make something as amazing as Fargo.

Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Shout! Factory presents Fargo in 4K/Dolby Vision from a new scan and restoration of the original camera negative, supervised by director of photography Roger Deakins. It is encoded in HEVC / H.265 and has a DTS HD-MA 5.1 soundtrack. The 4K disc is housed in a case with a removable slipcover and the case itself contains both the 4K Blu-ray disc and its previous HD 1080p Blu-ray release. The 4K disc contains no special features and all special features are found on the original Blu-ray.

Video Review

Ranking:

The “problem” with this release of Fargo is that the previous Blu-ray release which was reviewed by High-Def Digest in 2014 is that it already looked about as amazing as it possibly could have. The new remaster and presentation in Dolby Vision HDR is subtle at best. The good news is, it looks as amazing as it always has since then, with slight improvements here and there, with absolutely no drawbacks. There’s no game of give and take, where certain elements are improved, but there’s a loss in others. Everything, even if barely noticeable to the naked eye, is improved–whether it's an artifact issue or aliasing, it’s been cleaned up for this new release.

For the purpose of this review, I went back and forth between the 4K disc and the previous Blu-ray issue, rewatched key scenes and noted improvements, which there were a few: The opening scene in the bar in Fargo, ND represents richer coloring from the harsh, yellow lights you’d find in a typical dive bar, and the shadows are rich and inky black. Certain outside scenes filmed against blinding-white snow looked bluish or blown out ever, ever so slightly on the previous Blu-ray release, and those issues are nonexistent with Shout! Factory’s re-remaster and reissue.

The improvements are subtle and likely only noticeable to folks who review physical media releases (or AV nerds), but they are there, and numerous, and absolutely welcomed to make Fargo as stunning a release as possible.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Shout! Factory’s release of Fargo retains the previous DTS HD-MA 5.1 audio from the Blu-ray release from 2014, and you’ll have zero complaints from me. Fargo is a very front-heavy presentation and an object-based upgrade would be a bit distracting. The 5.1 lossless audio is crisp, with specific detail given to dialogue (important when this movie is 90% people talking). Rear speakers receive the most activity from Carter Burwell’s masterful score, but occasional sound effects do bleed over, such as cars whooshing by on an icy road, echoes of gunshots or the rumbling motor of a deadly woodchipper. There’s no upgrade here, but it doesn’t need it. I’m glad to see Shout! Factory employ the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.

Special Features

Ranking:

All special features are found on the original Blu-ray disc, and even those special features are the same from the DVD days. There are no updated features, no visual essays regarding Fargo’s cultural impact, just the same old stuff you’ve likely seen before if you’ve been a fan for as long as I have. Fargo first hit DVD when I was in high school, so there’s the same “Minnesota Nice” featurette, the baffling interview with Charlie Rose (in which he poses, without irony, the question of if the Coen brothers named the movie “Fargo” to see how “Far” the Coens will “Go”), the “American Cinematographer” text-only article (which would have been nice to include as a booklet a la Criterion), and TV spots/trailers.

  • Feature commentary by cinematographer Roger Deakins

  • “Minnesota Nice” featurette (SD, 27:48)

  • Charlie Rose interview with the Coen brothers and Frances McDormand (SD 20:32)

  • Theatrical trailer/TV spot

  • “American Cinematographer” article

Fargo is a brilliant movie, one of the best American films ever made, with a lasting impact and legacy that’s the stuff of legends. For such a “simple” movie (it’s deceptively simple), in how its shot and told, the labyrinthine plot has a lot to say about American culture, violence and greed. Simply put, it was amazing then, and has aged like a fine wine. Shout! Factory’s release improves slightly on the already-excellent video quality of MGM’s previous Blu-ray release, with no updates to its admittedly-excellent audio, or totally meh special features. If you don’t own Fargo: Remastered on Blu-ray, this disc would be Highly Recommended, but if you already own it, it would be hard to justify the double-dip, so as such, I’ll say that this one, despite high marks in Audio/Video quality, is going to be For Fans Only

Order Your Copy of Fargo on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray