Review: Mississippi Burning
Blu-ray: Mississippi Burning (1988)
Written by Chris Gerolmo and directed by Alan Parker, Mississippi Burning is loosely based on the FBI investigation into the murders of three civil rights workers in the U.S. state of Mississippi in 1964. Hackman’s character; agent Rupert Anderson, and Dafoe’s part of agent Alan Ward are based on the partnership of FBI agents John Proctor and Joseph Sullivan. Much can be read about the real case online.
Alan Parker hasn’t made a film since 2003, what a great shame because he is one of those directors who can take a story of injustice of some sort, and make it entertaining, heart wrenching and vital, without losing any impact by glossing over the shitty bits. He does this with Mississippi Burning.
The two central characters of Dafoe (a white seemingly liberal jobsworth) and Hackman (an ex-sheriff and possible ‘good ole boy’ from the south) turns what could be stereotypical characters on their heads so effectively that throughout the whole film you expect them to revert back to type. Both leads give power house performances of hot dripping-sweaty southern law men. The supporting cast are equally as abhorrent as the racist murderers (Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey and Gailard Sartain) with Frances McDormand as the beaten up, beaten down whistle blower wife of Dourif’s deputy.
It’s quite upsetting to watch a film like this, as entertaining as it is, to realise that things haven’t really improved that much in present day America. Although the KKK are much more underground now, the fact that they still exist is a puzzle. It also examines gender politics effectively, something else that hasn’t changed over the years; where the white ‘God fearing’ men can murder jews and blacks, and treat women just as barbarically.
Second Sight have taken an existing transfer of the film, and clean it very effectively, removing all the ‘dirt’ from the print.
Documentaries include : Through the storm – an insightful interview with Alan Parker, who also gives an interesting commentary of the movie. Remembering Mississippi Burning – an interview with a very grizzly looking Willem Dafoe about the making of the film, and Under Siege – an interview with writer Chris Gerolmo.