Mississippi Burning was released in 1988 and was directed by Alan Parker, who also made Midnight Express and Angel Heart. It stars Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Brad Dourif and Frances McDormand, and was chosen as the best film of 1988 by famed film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
The film opens in 1964 with the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, one black and two white. Two FBI agents, played by Hackman and Dafoe, are sent to investigate. They are immediately treated with contempt by the local police, who resent being told how to run things. They also hold vastly different opinions on how to approach the situation at hand. While in the town they start to annoy the local Deputy (Dourif) and the Mayor, played by the incomparable R. Lee Ermey. As the film progresses it becomes apparent that the local KKK were involved and also the police department. After a series of set-backs the FBI finally start to make some headway, once Gene Hackman gets his way.
The acting in this movie is truly superb. Hackman, one of my top three actors, gives a very physical performance and gets to spew some fantastic lines. He was Oscar nominated for his role, but ironically lost to his old friend Dustin Hoffman, who won for Rain Man. Willem Dafoe is excellent as the very strait-laced Mr. Ward. The criminally under-rated Brad Dourif is magnificent, while Frances McDormand who plays his wife, also excels in the female lead role. The supporting cast too is full of great character actors, who you will no doubt recognise from other movies.
The beautiful scenery on display in the film helped it to win its only Oscar, for best cinematography. It also earned nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, but did not win, unfortunately. The music, despite appearing to be synth based, is suitably moody and fits in very well.
The movie looks very realistic and you get a real feel for what Mississippi must have been like in 1964. Despite the hideous fashions, hairstyles and music that were belched forth from the decade of my birth, I always believe that the 80s produced the best period films.
The sense of satisfaction from watching this film, especially the last hour, is immense. Once the FBI start to get a foothold the highlights come thick and fast. If you want to see a movie that ticks every possible box, go watch this one now!