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Mississippi Burning Reviews

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Super Reviewer

November 4, 2006
When three civil rights activists go missing in a small Mississippi town, FBI agents Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe arrive to investigate igniting a powder keg of racial tension. Alan Parker's grim indictment of institutional racism is one gut wrenchingly powerful scene after another. Not only a gripping detective story, it also documents the appalling conditions African Americans had to endure in the not-so distant past. The pairing of college educated agent Dafoe who naively thought he could bluster into this insular community and instantly set the world to rights and Hackman's powerhouse performance as an ex-good ol' boy from the deep south himself works brilliantly; particularly the friction caused by Dafoe mistaking Hackman's laid back seen-it-all-before attitude for indifference. Frances McDormand also puts in a performance of quiet dignity as one of the good people of the community forced to keep silent by fear of the deep-seated hatred that surrounds her. Horrifyingly, this story was based on actual events and is for me, one of the best thrillers ever made. It's nice to think that with Obama in the Whitehouse, we are living in a different world. But as they say "You're in Mississippi now, boy. The rest of America don't mean shit."
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

November 18, 2013
There are many movies that do not stand the test of time, but this isn't one of them. Great direction, story, and acting. A moving must see depiction of the state of affairs in the United States in the 1960's. A time of change.This is filmmaking at it's best. Appalling to me, however, that the culprits received such little jail time at the end (and had to be convicted of lesser crimes JUST to convict them of something).
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

June 26, 2013
I think it would be wrong to dismiss Mississippi Burning due to it being a fictional story as there are plenty of similar stories that are very true on the subject. The 'talking head' interviews with the local people did help raise the issue that racism is born from hate which is in turn born from ignorance and that you certainly are not born with it. The levels of racism are also subtly examined, as high office, blue collar and everyone in-between are represented. The performances are powerful, Dafoe, McDormand and Dourif are all impressive but Hackman easily steals the show in one of his best roles to date. A great film from the late 80's.

Super Reviewer

September 12, 2012
Mississippi Burning is a movie with it's heart in the right place. Parker & company do their very best to immerse the viewer into a time and place unimaginable by many Americans of a younger generations. For the most part they pull it off. This is aided by great performances from Hackman who plays a shrewd detective that has been around the block a few times & a young Dafoe, an ideologue who cannot comprehend how this sort of madness has come to pass.

The film at times feels like a horror film, which I found fitting as this was a truly terrifying time for Southern blacks. Trevor Jones‚(TM) mesmerizing score is outstanding. It feels like it is oozing out of the speakers & saturating your bones. This in conjunction with the film‚(TM)s dark & gritty look leaves the viewer with an overall unsettling feeling.

My main problem with the film unfortunately has to do with the script. While entertaining, I couldn't help but feel a bit confused by the "love" story that was awkwardly forced in. Also, while there is a satisfaction that comes with watching a little revenge porn, having the detectives stoop to such low levels in order to bring the criminals to justice felt a bit wrong. I understand the old adage that one must ‚fight fire with fire.‚? However, this type of racial subjugation was sustained due to the use of macabre terror tactics. The film seems to suggest that the only way to end evil is to partake in it. It doesn‚(TM)t explore the consequences of this course of action and everything seems to fall into place after the detectives embrace these brutal tactics. A message a found a bit disconcerting.

Overall, Mississippi Burning is an entertaining, albeit one-dimensional, look at the ruthlessness of the Southern Civil Rights Movement.
Jason O

Super Reviewer

March 19, 2011
This film was released right after I turned 8, and I remember always being curious to see it because I found the title, "Mississippi Burning," cool and interesting....even though I had no idea what it was about. Besides, I live right beside Mississippi. Finally saw it last night, and I have to say it was wellllllllll worth the wait! I found the film to be mega captivating from start to finish, and just all around great....I even liked the music track they play over and over throughout the movie when an uncertain sequence arises. I've seen a few Gene Hackman films and have always liked his stuff, but this may be his very best that I've seen so far. Can't say I've seen many, but this is also the best movie dealing with slavery that I've seen. It holds nothing back and I respect that in a movie. It also truly makes you wonder, with America being "the land of the free," how did lady liberty ever let things like this go on?? "Mississippi Burning" had that kind of power over me, along with the excellent cast.

Now, what has four I's and can't see?
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

November 4, 2010
The opening scene of the film says it all!

There are two water fountains, one for "coloured people" and the other for "whites", labeled clearly so. The water fountain for the coloured people appears dull and unclean while the other one appears much more polished. So a white man and an African American man drink from their respective fountains as the beginning credits appear. This haunting initial image sums up the nature of this 1988 Alan Parker picture, that is "Mississippi Burning".

Based on a shocking true story of the murders of three civil rights workers in the U.S. state of Mississippi in 1964, "Mississippi Burning" is a film pretty well made, but one that focuses mostly on the dramatization of the FBI activity related to the case and concerning the two lead characters, the FBI agents portrayed by Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, whose investigation approaches greatly differ.

When three civil rights activists, including one African American and two white Jewish boys are reported missing, two FBI agents, Agent Alan Ward (Willem Dafoe) and Agent Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman) are sent to Jessup County in Mississippi.

This is a place where there is blatant racial segregation. Coloured people and the white people can't even share the same dining area in a restaurant. White people don't mix with coloured people and vice versa. What's more, such a system is even approved and encouraged by the town law and even the mayor! In one scene, the mayor explains to Anderson: "Down here, we got two cultures; the white culture and the coloured culture"! When Anderson replies that rest of America doesn't see it that way, the sheriff replies "The rest of America don't mean jack shit"! So what can one do one everyone is in on it! Everyone from the law enforcement officers to the town locals maintain and are of the impression that the three boys had "just taken off somewhere".

Known to the two agents, the local law is also supporting and running a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan.

So, of course, the affairs are all fishy and our agents discover the bitter truth eventually, in spite of all the resistance offered by the local people and the law alike; the law, because they don't want outside FBI agents meddling with the local law, as that would lead to a major expose' and the local civilians, especially the African Americans for fear of being beaten up or threatened or being driven out of their houses, which will be ultimately burned down by the white extremists that is the KKK.

Adding to their troubles are the entirely different ways of working that Ward and Anderson seem to have. Ward takes a direct, "bureau procedure" approach to the investigation, while Anderson, having been lived and worked in Mississippi himself, knows very well how the minds of the people over there work when it comes to race related issues and hence refrains from taking a direct approach and doing things very subtly like trying to befriend some of the locals, strike casual conversations at local gatherings, salons, bars, etc.

Meanwhile, Anderson manages to befriend the wife of Deputy Clinton Pell(Brad Dourif), played by Frances McDormand. He then makes desperate attempts to try and get some information from her about this whole situation.

"Mississippi Burning" is powerful in parts and Alan Parker successfully creates the disturbing, violent environment in which African Americans were frequently attacked and were driven out by Klan members who burned down their houses at night, or beat them up during their social gatherings.

Only such moments are fewer and the conflicts of the FBI agents and their heroism are given more attention to. The role of African American civilians is then mostly reserved to being mute victims of the white extremists.

Excellent performances from Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand and Gene Hackman make "Mississippi Burning" an engaging watch. Hackman especially wins hands down in the acting department with yet another gritty portrayal of a cop but one that is quite different from his earlier, more memorable "Popeye" Doyle in "The French Connection (1971)".

"Mississippi Burning" is recommended:
1. For the adequately taut screenplay of a story that is more of a cop thriller than a look at the civil rights movement, and
2. Of course, for Gene Hackman.

Super Reviewer

June 25, 2010
I remember seeing Mississippi Burning for the first time. I was blown away of the sheer power this film had on me. The cast is terrific in this drama thriller as the FBI hunts for the killers of three civil rights activists in 1960's segregated Mississippi. A terrific film with a strong story, and message, this is a powerful thought provoking film that is hard to watch, but is ultimately necessary to watch. Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman deliver strong performances. The film examines the racist aspect of Mississippi in the 60's. The films story is set during the high of the Civil rights movement. The racist aspect that we are shown is that the blacks were segregated from the Whites, and hate crimes were often rampant on the black community of Mississippi and other Southern States of the U.S. The film tells the story of three civil rights activists who disappear in the Mississippi bayou and the strong racial tensions between the whites and the blacks. A well done film thats very thought provoking, it's hard to phantom how there was this much hate in South, and in some cases still is. Even though the film is constructed as a Thriller, the film like I've mentioned before gives us a clear portrait of the racial tension of that era in the South. Though it's hard too watch, I believe films like these are important to watch because it shows that racism is a negative and destructive thing that no one should have. One of the biggest strengths that the film has is the top notch cast of actors who deliver phenomenal performances. Mississippi Burning is an important film and one that can make you ask questions, yet still manage to entertain you and give you a lesson in history. The events that are portrait in the film are based on the real life 1964 Civil rights activist murders in Mississippi, a very intense, dramatic and stunning film.
familiar s

Super Reviewer

March 18, 2009
Liked it more than "A Time To Kill".
Fernando Rafael Q

Super Reviewer

June 12, 2009
In the movies, violent doesn't mean powerful, and that's exactly the problem with MISSISSIPPI BURNING. Hate crimes on film are always hard to watch, and at times it feels as if that's all this movie has to offer. Weak and/or unrealistic characters further keep the film from becoming a true, poignant statement.

Amazing cinematography and score, as well as a solid performance by Gene Hackman are the better aspects of this overrated thriller.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

December 31, 2008
An outstanding film that features a great cast detailing the ugly underpinnings of racism in the Deep South. Gene Hackman is terrific as the "good cop" who can turn into "bad cop" faster than you can imagine, with Dafoe proving to be more than capable as the straight by the book hot shot FBI agent who has to keep tabs on Hackman's mood swings. The overall message can't be made any clearer, that being racism is an ugly, despicable, and overall worthless thing to possess because it hurts an entire community, or in this case, can affect an entire region
Lady D

Super Reviewer

March 10, 2007
A strong brutal topic with great performances all around. I'm not sure why I took so long to watch this film, it really is quite amazing how people can have such hatred for other races, this powerful film will make yoru own thoughts on the subject rise to the surface.

Super Reviewer

March 6, 2008
Excellent film about real events, hard to grip that things in the movie really happened.

Super Reviewer

March 20, 2007
I always love real-life events including this drama film about the FBI agents sent to Mississippi to investigate the deaths in 1964 of three civil rights workers. Even though it deals with straight black and white problems.
Al S

Super Reviewer

August 29, 2006
a chilling thriller. a remarkably potent and truthal picture.
John B

Super Reviewer

December 30, 2013
It's hard to believe that Willem Dafoe was young and not quite so strange looking at one point. He and Hackman have excellent chemistry as they attempt to investigate not just a crime but an entire culture.
Jeffrey M

Super Reviewer

September 24, 2011
Mississippi Burning is powerful, well acted, and a very well written account of true events. While the story itself is compelling, the characters are what really make the film, opting for complexity instead of tired clich√ (C)s. For his part, Gene Hackman does some of his finest work, as does Frances McDormand.

Super Reviewer

August 17, 2011
What ever happened to Alan Parker? After the critically panned The Life of David Gale, he seems to have practically disappeared from cinema. Why doesn't he come back? I feel like Hollywood could use a mind like his. He is brilliant director. Hell, I'd go so far as to call him a treasure of cinema, and I've only a small portion of his work.

Mississippi Burning is a great movie, and one of the best in the crime genre to ever come about. It is wonderful in nearly every aspect; wonderfully acted, wonderfully written, wonderfully photographed, and of course, wonderfully directed. I'm not the world's biggest Gene Hackman fan (I haven't seen The French Connection) but because of this movie, he has become a whole lot more popular with me. And Willem Dafoe is typically great as well. His acting is always so subtle, yet so powerful.

This is one of the rare movies where you know the ending and what happens along the way before the first ten minutes are up, yet it isn't predictable. It is emotionally moving and bound to stir up some form of contempt in one's heart for the unreasonable brutality that took place in the South so long ago.

I will close by saying once more that Alan Parker is a wonderful filmmaker. And to anyone who knows him or knows where he is, please bring him back. Please.
Danny R

Super Reviewer

July 2, 2010
A searing, thought-provoking and emotionally charged film, that captures the racial turmoil in America during the 1960s. On a lonely desolate stretch of southern highway, three civil rights activists are chase and murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Two F.B.I. agents brilliantly played by Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe are dispatched to investigate the disappearance of the activists, their combined struggle is to break the code of silence and prejudice in a small sleepy Missisippi town.
Alec B

Super Reviewer

May 20, 2008
While I wish the film was more about the actual civil rights movement and not just the FBI agents and the horrible crimes perpetrated by the KKK, I think Mississippi Burning was trying to show 1964 as a literal war of the races, with people picking sides and either sticking to the old ways or change. It's also about the two conflicting views of FBI agents trying to fing three missing civil rights workers. Gene Hackman Williem Dafoe and Frances McDormand all give wonderful performances. I think the film would have been a masterpiece if it had focused more on the black community of Mississippi and their stories. It still serves as a lesson on one of the darker periods of American history.
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