Fargo Blu-ray Review
Fargo is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 ratio and the 1080P high definition transfer uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec.
Much of Fargo's excellence is down to the acting performances but the quality of camera work is always outstanding. As the bleach white opening scene comes into focus Roger Deakin's cinematography takes a hold. The cold snowy backdrops and the framing of the scenes always have a degree of intent and purposefulness about them.
Colours are well balanced with skin tones being realistic. The contrast levels are excellent and really add punch to the image whether it be indoors or outdoors. Blacks prove to be just as solid.
However, all is not well. The film features excessive grain which I feel many will not be comfortable with. The whole thing appears as a mosquito like mesh moving all over the image and high definition detail tends to exacerbate this. Edges are super sharp but that is only because digital enhancement has taken place. Peer closely at the outlines and you'll see the halo and ringing effect.
Viewed at a distance you would be forgiven to accept what you have here is ok. In some ways it is but the detail gets all too easily lost in the rather noisy grain. This is disappointing. I'm sure when it comes to opinions there will be six of one and half a dozen of the other. Which ever way you choose to lean, I'm afraid that there's no doubting that grain is far too prevalent and interferes a little too much with the image.
Fargo features a lossless English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
The inclusion of a lossless soundtrack is always good but this disc has also tried to cater for a number of linguistic requirements. There are no less than nine audio tracks included. Granted, there's only one DTS-HD but they've certainly used as much of the disc space as they can for all the others.
That's not all. If you're spoken language is not featured then it's pretty hard to imagine that there's not a subtitled option for you to consider from. The list is almost comprehensive.
Vocals and dialogue are the mainstay of this film. Much of the activity is centre and front stereo based so directionality is a little lacking. Rears are not called for much and the 5.1 soundtrack is a little wasted in this regard. There's also not much bass activity going on but the odd thump and sudden burst of sound does on occasion appear to have some resonance about it.
In all, the soundtrack is a little disappointing as it lacks any kind of dimensionality or passion. Carter Burwell's excellent score is about the only real highpoint of note; the sombre string arrangements leave a telling mark.
For the most part the audio aspects do work with the movie and to give credit where it's due there is a certain richness to it all.
The disc comes with a fairly limited set of extras. This is all the more disappointing as there's nothing presented in high definition.
Commentary with Director of Photography Roger A. Deakins - Roger Deakins was responsible for the excellent cinematography throughout the film. The audio commentary is a solo effort by him and as such has a particularly singular feel to it. As he recalls each of the scenes the angle is most definitely from the photographic aspect. Unfortunately he runs dry on quite a few occasions and the commentary lacks continuity and fluidity as a result.
Minnesota Nice Documentary - (27mins 47secs) - This one is a pretty much run of the mill extra presented in standard definition. The cast and crew all make decent comment and it is interspersed with insightly comment from both Joel and Ethan Coen.
Trivia Track - Once selected 'on' the trivia track will reveal factual pop ups about the film and the scenes in play. It's actually a very active feature on this disc and the pop ups crop up with alarming regularity. In fact I was pleasantly surprised, more so than on any other disc that has a similar feature set.
Photo Gallery - There's a whole host of still photos for you to wade through. Most of them are behind the scenes stuff so it's a photo album to peruse at your leisure.
TV Spot - (32ecs) - A short original TV trailer of the film.
American Cinematographer Article - (6mins 54secs) - This is a written interview about the film along with various stills of the film, cast and crew dotted in between.
Fargo is in many ways an oddity of a film. It has always been a cross between a comedy and a thriller with a curious blend of violence thrown in. If there's one striking thing about this film, it is that it will always somehow or other catch you off your guard.
There's no doubting that it manifests itself as the blackest of comedies. The film works so incredibly well in every department, remains highly entertaining throughout and leaves you ultimately pondering a poignant question about morality. There's absolutely no doubting that Fargo is a fine film featuring some truly outstanding acting performances.
It therefore comes as a slight pity that the technical aspects of this blu-ray release fall short of the levels of what a film like this really deserves. The high definition video presentation features an excessive use of grain that borders on noise, as well as evidence of some digital edge enhancement going on. Some of you may well choose to see past this as the film itself is so beautifully shot and I wouldn't blame you for doing so.
On a secondary note the audio effort lacks a little passion. Perhaps just a little more inventiveness in the re-mastering department would have helped this lossless soundtrack no end? It's a little bug bear but great films also deserve the full on 'extras package' treatment but even that's a little short changed here.
Nevertheless, you really can't say a bad word about the film itself. Fans of the Coen Brothers as well as many others will be grateful that it has finally made it onto a high definition format. Fargo remains an absolute no-brainer and qualifies as a must have film for any self respecting film collector or otherwise.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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