Mississippi Burning Cover What has for eyes and can not see? Mississippi in the mid sixties? Or some type of mutant frog with cataracts? Personally speaking, I'd like to say both answers are correct really. But I am leaning slightly more favorably to the latter solution, although the former solution can be seen in this slice of filmic history, Directed by: Alan Parker; and Starring: Gene Hackman with Willem Dafoe. It was diagnosed in 1988, and was then sent to hospital 122 minutes later.

Mississippi Burning

Picture the scene. Mississippi. 1963. And you suddenly hear the tragic news upon the radio, that three civil rights workers – two white, and one black -- have gone missing under mysterious circumstances.

So what are you going to do about it, huh? Cry me a river? Ha! Don't make me laugh.That won't accomplish anything. Will it? I'd suggest that you get your hands on those two FBI agents, Rupert Anderson and Alan Ward (Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe), because I'm pretty damn sure they can sort this mess out A.S.A.P. 

Yeah. I kid you not, folks. Anderson and Ward don't give a brass dime if the local cops, the townsfolk, or anybody else won't help them out with this case. One way or another they will find a way to discover who's behind this strange event, even if the bloody KKK themselves are involved with this obviously racial scenario.

Ahh, huh! Yep again! That's correct. I said the Klu-Klux-Klan! The racist bunch of buggers that will prompt Andreson and Ward to part ways midpoint through their investigation. With Ward going by the book, gathering statements in a very procedural manner. Whilst Anderson charms his way through these proceedings, and connecting with people on common ground -- like the deputy sheriff's wife, Ms Pell (Frances McDormand), for example -- who confides in him over time.

Granted, the KKK’s will fight back when these agents eventually find the three civil rights workers missing car, plus a way to get back at some of the people involved. But then again, that's most probably why what next transpires all kicks off when Mississippi begins to burn. As a wife gets caught out - a group of racist scream and shout - a case is eventually put to rest - plus please remember, folk, singing from your heart is always best.

A beginning.

No matter who you are. No matter what you are. No matter how you are. Or  no matter where you are. 'Mississippi Burning' is just one of those movies that make’s you think-think-think till the cows come home. You can’t help it, even if you try to resist. Its just one of those things that happens with this type of 'message movie'.

Obviously, the message in this flick is a simple one really -- racism, and the causes of racism -- and tackles this very bold subject matter in a very straightforward and direct fashion. Deriving it's story on a true life events, and then massaging it to fit the framework of two diametrically opposed FBI agents, Anderson and Ward, who are dealing with this bodacious topic of note.

Willem Dafoe in Mississippi Burning

Mississippi Burning Film Poster
Now I say 'bodacious', because, well... lets face it... who of you out there in cyberspace can safely say that they have not felt disdain for a particular race or creed at one point in their life or another? Not many. I’m sure. And that is exactly what this film makes you think about when you watch it.

OK, so racism is a part of life. But why is that, huh? Hatred? Greed? Bigotry? Fear? Or something else altogether? According to this film, it is a combination of all five of these solutions. With each aspect feeding off of each other in a very symbiotic fashion.

On a certain level, I myself have to agree with this statement. As it does present a very good argument, by showing you blatantly what one particular race -- i.e. the colored race -- had to deal with, during the mid-sixties living in America’s ‘south’. Whilst, on another level, this slant could be perceived as slightly too liberal minded; making the antagonist motives appear alien and crude by default.

Thankfully though, the main stars of this film, Gene and Willem, as well as the director, Alan Parker, take this concept to an all new level, and are able to capture the essence of both sides of the argument, whilst staying consistently liberal all the way through it.

Hatred is bad. Greed is bad. Bigotry is bad. And fear is bad. So why can't people be good? Duly noted, some people can be. Just like this film in fact. A classic piece of cinema, full of color, action, excitement, suspense, and most of all, a thought provoking ‘message movie’ that is as pure as anything I have ever seen.

Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe in Mississippi Burning

The missing poster for J. E. Chaney, Mickey Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman
Here, check out some of these filmic-facts to see what I mean by this: (1) According to director, Alan Parker, some of the 'television interviews' carried out by the while people of Mississippi were ad-libbed, and based on their own feelings about the real life events. (2) Gene was the first choice to play Hannibal Lector in 'The Silence of the Lambs' [click here for review], plus Mike in 'the Brady Bunch'. (3) This story was inspired by the murder of the three voting rights activists, J. E. Chaney, Mickey Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. (4) I kid you not; Willem was the first choice to play the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman film. (5) This movie was very controversial when it was first released. Although it is fictional in places, the story was clearly based on an actual case, and certain people felt that certain facts from the real-life case were left out or perverted. (6) 'Miami Vices' Don Johnson wanted Willems Dafoes role so much, that he himself publicly campaigned for it. (7) Frances McDormand once lived in the same apartment with Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel, Holly Hunter, plus Joel and Ethan Coen. (8) Gene Hackman is a noted liberal, and prefers roles which suits his own leanings. (9) Gene and Willem both played comic book villains during their careers. Lex Luthor for Gene. And the Green Goblin for Willem. (10) Whilst filming the rednecks-vs-reporters scenes, situated on a bridge over a river, two extras were nearly killed by a train, when they accidentally ventured from the holding area onto a tall concrete-arch on the bridge. (11) Quite a few of the extras participating in Clayton Townley's speech scene, were actual members of the Klu Klux Klan. And (12) Alan Parker has had several collections of film industry-related cartoons published.

Gene and Willem in Mississippi Burning

Ooops! Sorry about that. Sometimes I get a little too carried away with myself when I am on a trivia splurge. Anyway, I think that I have said enough about 'Mississippi Burning', huh? The story is a great one. The cast are inspired. The direction is spot on. And at the end of the day the overall package makes you think -- 'racism, its a bloody waste of energy' -- correct?


MISSISSIPPI BURNING MISSISSIPPI BURNING Reviewed by David Andrews on March 29, 2011 Rating: 5
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