Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mississippi Burning

Made in 1988, Mississippi Burning is a serious film about race relations in 1964 Mississippi. It tells the true story of two FBI agents (played by Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman) who are assigned to a missing persons case, and deals with all of the serious issues of the civil rights era. From the infiltration of the KKK in the local police force to the guilt felt by many of the white people, the director doesn't miss a thing. There is even a hint of a love story underneath it all.

Considering this film was made only 2 decades after the rampant violence in the South, it does a thorough job of dealing with these hot issues. The entire town is upset about the presence of the FBI agents, searching for clues about the three missing kids, who were activists from the North. One of them, having experienced life in a racist Mississippi town himself, produces conflict within the FBI from the beginning. He knows that following the zero-tolerance rules of the Northerners will achieve very little amongst the stubborn white supremacists. Aggression is hard for him to avoid, much to the disappointment of his colleagues.

Although the specific case of disappearance is the focus of the film, it is much more than a detective film. We are introduced to the black community via church worship and a freedom march. The white community is conveyed through the wives and families of some of the KKK men. The audience is privy to every side of the story firsthand, which means the racial tension is impossible to escape as viewers. We are not spared any gory details either.

Every actor in this film gives a memorable performance. A young Darius McCrary, from the TV show Family Matters, even plays a significant role. This is not a typical 80's film in that it confronts the serious issues in both a cinematically touching and politically risky way. A funeral scene hints at the Vietnam War, making the film more than one-dimensional. If you are up for the gut-wrenching drama, Mississippi Burning is an incredible film.

1 comment:

Vladigogo said...

A note on the acting: this film really gave a boost to Frances McDormand, who up to this point had been featured in Coen Bros. films, especially since she is married to one, Joel Coen.

It gave her her first Oscar nomination.