Saturday, June 19, 2010
Mississippi Burning; Crime drama, USA, 1988; D: Alan Parker, S: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Gailard Sartain, Stephen Tobolowsky, Michael Rooker
Mississippi, '64. Two FBI agents - Ward, who does everything strictly by the rules, and Anderson, who sometimes uses legally "unconventional" tactics to get some information - try to discover and arrest the murderers of three human rights activists - one of whom was Black and another a Jew - who wanted to include African-Americans into the voting process. The perpetrators are seven members of the Ku Klux Klan, among them even Sheriff Stuckey and Deputy Sheriff Pell. After questioning Pell's wife, Anderson is able to locate the corpses of the three activists. However, they have no evidence whereas the Klan increases attacks on local Black people. Luckily, using Anderson's wild methods, they are able to get testimonies and send them to jail.
Excellent and pure crime drama about racism, based on a true case, "Mississippi Burning" is one of those 'old-school' investigation stories that are both qualitative and noble, indulging the viewers' expectation of two idealistic, elevated heroes who descend to a troubled place to bring justice and order. Moody-atmospheric cinematography, that won the Oscar and a BAFTA, did well to conjure up the mentality and feel of Mississippi in the 60s, yet the stand-out highlight is the understated performance by masterful actor Gene Hackman as the unconventional FBI agent Anderson, for which he was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Even the sole simple scene where he and a couple of other FBI agents walk with their fine suits into a swamp that reaches their knees to investigate the scene of the crime is already great, let alone all those moments where he would "inventively" clash with the secret members of the Ku Klux Klan - like when he says out loud: "Baseball is the only game where a Black man can raise a stick at a White man without causing a riot" or the comical moment where he questions Pell while giving him a "close shave". The film lapses slightly from a few pale segments, yet it offers some good, unobtrusive messages about humanity and tolerance, equipped with refreshing humor here and there (the hilarious scene where the three FBI agents are laxly chasing after the three "Ku Klux Klan" members, i.e. actors, until they both stop because it was all an act) that manage to impress.