Classic Review – Mississippi Burning (1988)

Title – Mississippi Burning (1988)

Director – Alan Parker (Angel Heart)

Cast – Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Michael Rooker

Plot – F.B.I Agents Anderson (Hackman) and Ward (Dafoe) find themselves in the deep south of America in the 1960’s trying to solve the case of three missing men who appear to be victims of the horrific racism that is present in the small town they found themselves in.

“It’s not good for you to be here”

Review by Eddie on 18/02/2021

One of the more fondly regarded films of the late Alan Parker’s illustrious career, Mississippi Burning is a powerful tale of the racist underbelly and past of the United States of America and a gripping thriller too boot.

Named by esteemed critic Roger Ebert as his film of 1988 at the time of release, Burning has a tale based around fact in a fictional narrative that see’s Willem Dafoe’s young rule-book abiding F.B.I agent Ward and his more fiery older partner agent Anderson (played by an on song Gene Hackman in one of his most well-regarded performances) venture into the deep-south America of the 1960’s to discover what happened to two Jewish students and a young black man that have gone missing in the KKK infested landscape of Mississippi.

Holding nothing back and taking a lens straight to the heart of the issue that plagued American until recent times, some would say still plagues, Parker and his stars provide us with an uncompromising view of the horrific racism that was present in this era and through Ward and Anderson we get two differing men who want the same result and must discover how they will get justice for those that have been wronged in an environment that seems unconcerned with fairness and equality.

Getting far less to do than his veteran co-star, Dafoe is solid if unremarkable as Ward, a man who has yet to be wearied by years in a system that seems to provide roadblocks at every turn when justice is being sought but Hackman is as good as he ever was in his big screen roles as the determined and unflappable Anderson.

Fitting his gruff persona perfectly, watching Anderson build a relationship with Frances McDormand’s kind-hearted local Mrs. Pell or go toe to toe with racist locals such as Brad Dourif’s Deputy Pell or Michael Rooker’s detestable redneck Frank Bailey is a sight to behold and provides Hackman with many a great screen moment that is enhanced by Parker’s strong direction and Chris Gerolmo’s incendiary script.

Thirty plus years on from initial release there has been little lost from this film, that while in instances there may be slightly underplayed or overplayed situations and a suffering sometimes from too many strands at once crammed into a two hour runtime, Mississippi Burning remains one of the most quintessential films of its type.

Final Say – 

A no holds barred examination of the often unspoken about American failings of the past that still infect the present, Mississippi Burning is a powerful dramatic thriller and a key piece of work for its director and leading men.

4 cheddar cheese champions out of 5 

One response to “Classic Review – Mississippi Burning (1988)

  1. Nice review, although the sentence, “getting far less too do that his veteran co-star, Dafoe is solid if unremarkable as Ward” is bothering me. The “too” should be “to” and the “that” should be “than” (unless I’m missing a language difference) and did you mean to say “remarkable?”

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