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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Gene Hackman
Willem Dafoe
Michael Rooker
R. Lee Ermey
Brad Dourif
Frances McDormand
Frankie Faison.
Directors
Alan Parker.
Screenwriters
Chris Gerolmo.
Running Time
127 minutes

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Mississippi Burning
Gene Hackman is marvelous in this tale of racial hatred and murder in the Deep South.


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Plot
Three young civil rights activists are murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1969 and the largest FBI manhunt is sparked off.


Review
Mississippi, 1964: two young white civil rights activists and a black colleague are driving along a country road when they notice a car dangerously close behind. Suddenly the car rams into them to stop at the side if the road. A fat white face appears at the side window and the young driver nervously asks him what's happening. Thirty seconds later, the three youths are dead murdered by the local Ku Klux Klan. Such was essentially the fate of the James Chaney, Mickey Schwener and Andy Goodman in Neshoba County, Mississippi 1964. Their deaths sparked off the biggest manhunt in FBI history and led to the conviction of seven Klan members, including the deputy sheriff of Neshoba County. The affair has been repeatedly documented in various books and now it forms the core of Alan Parker's Mississippi Burning. And it's Parker's film that has sparked the controversy which probably explains why its fistful of Oscar Nominations weren't turned into awards.

The main charge against Parker is that he twists the facts of the case to suit his own story and in doing so rewrites history of the early civil rights movement as yet another tale of Whitey to the rescue. Certainly, the film is littered with examples of fact giving way to fiction and the main focus of the movie is not the fight for equality but the fiery relationship between FBI agents Anderson (Gene Hackman) and Wilson (Willem Dafoe), with a romantic interest thrown in for good measure. It's hardly surprising that one American critic has accused Parker of behaving as if 'my talent is more important than your reality'. Setting aside Mississippi Burning: The Debate, Mississippi Burning: The Film hurtles along at a gripping pace. The South brought vividly to life with blazing churches, Klan crosses, dusty barbershops and segregated washrooms.

The white folk are podgy, ugly and slack-jawed, the blacks lean, handsome and with 300 years of suffering in their eyes. Hackman is marvelous as Anderson, charming the deputy sheriff's wife (Frances McDormand) one minute, grabbing a local thug by the balls the next and applying himself with relish to threats like "I'm going to get so far up your nose you're going to feel my boots on your chin." (One feels like Popeye Doyle would have appreciated that one.) Dafoe offers a useful performance as his partner, the buttoned-down liberal from the North who genuinely can't understand the pitch of Mississippi's race hatred.


Verdict
With remarkable performances, aggressive direction and a cracking pace, this is superb cinema, even if the historical accuracy leaves much to be desired.


Reviewed by Barry McIlheney

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Mississippi Burning
Empire Star Rating

WHO GIVES A FUCKING SHIT ABOUT THE HISTORICAL ACCURACY!

Empire, just shut the fuck up! You...are a movie magazine. A MOVIE magazine. This, and correct me if i'm wrong, is a MOVIE. Not a fucking factbook! Appreciate it as a movie or a FILM (a term I prefer). This doesn't try to be a documentary, so don't review it like it is one. It's a film. One of the most powerful films I've ever seen too, if not the most uplifting. The performances are amazing, from the brilliant central pair (Hackman on terrific Popeye-stlye form and possibly Dafoe's finest momen... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 17:52, 06 May 2010 | Report This Post


Good but not accurate...

Anderson: You know, if I were a Negro, I'd probably think the same way they do! Ward: If you were a Negro, nobody would give a damn what you thought! Good dialogue, but the film itself does not give a 'damn' of what the African Americans were doing during the Summer of '64. The film successfully represents the actions of the KKK; burning houses, burning churches, killing people. By presenting that, though, the film only achieves to demote the black community and suggest that they were unab... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by eleninic at 13:50, 19 January 2010 | Report This Post


Good but not accurate...

Anderson: You know, if I were a Negro, I'd probably think the same way they do! Ward: If you were a Negro, nobody would give a damn what you thought! Good dialogue, but the film itself does not give a 'damn' of what the African Americans were doing during the Summer of '64. The film successfully represents the actions of the KKK; burning houses, burning churches, killing people. By presenting that, though, the film only achieves to demote the black community and suggest that they were unab... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by eleninic at 13:50, 19 January 2010 | Report This Post


Disturbing

While not historically accurate, this is still excellent cinema ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 09:43, 31 March 2008 | Report This Post


however...

I suppose from the aspect of the FBI giving a damn it is a little far fetched but it does not mean to say that there are not good people in the world! I stick with my original rating... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mr_pringel at 23:15, 12 February 2007 | Report This Post


Oh come on...

i do believe the tagline said 1964 not 1969! The Civil Rights Act was not passed until 1965, and although the KKK was in decline after 1944, but there are still an estinated 3,000 members of the racist organisation today! (in 1990 there were 2,000)!! Mississippi is a perfect backdrop not only being in the so called 'Bible Belt' of America, they were also the last state to ratify the 13th Amendment, 130 years after it was passed by congress in 1865! personally as far as the historical acuracy goe... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mr_pringel at 23:05, 12 February 2007 | Report This Post


... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cavalier26 at 18:10, 26 November 2006 | Report This Post


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