Mississippi Burning (1988)

“Down here they say rattlesnakes don’t commit suicide.” – Anderson

Number of Times Seen – At least 5 times (Cable in the 80’s and 90’s, 28 Feb 2012 and 4 Dec 2017)

Brief Synopsis – In 1964, two FBI agents are sent to Mississippi to investigate the murder of three civil rights workers.

My Take on it – This is such a great film because it gets so many things right about the whole issue of racism in the South during the 1960’s.

I love The characters played by Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe because they both have similar goals as partners but each has their own way of reaching those goals.

The chemistry between the two of them shines throughout.

The story presented here is quiet compelling and thrilling and they found the right way to keep things exciting the whole way through because we are waiting in anticipation to see what will happen next.

The cinematography is superb and it gives us a great idea of what the Deep South was like by making it seem like a character itself. and in some ways, the main character of the whole story.

The issues dealt with in this film are all about the burning questions about racism and how it could exist in the 60’s in the Deep South and they present them so well.

This, in turn says so much about the culture of the inhabitants of the North and South during these very turbulent times.

As things move along, we get a clearer idea as to how it was conceivable that such hatred still existed 100 years after the end of the Civil War and the Emancipation Act.

Truly deserving of its 7 Oscar nominations.

Unfortunately, it only won for Cinematography.

Bottom Line – Hackman and Dafoe work so well together because their characters are so different and use different methods to accomplish their goals. The story is quite compelling and thrilling and they easily keep us interested for the entire runtime of the film. The issues dealt with here are quite impactful and so much is said by the way they tell the story. They show us a great perspective on how it is possible that racism still existed in the South a century following emancipation.  Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – At one point, Gene Hackman decided that he would no longer make more violent films, after seeing a brief and violent clip of his performance in this film (and taken out of context, he thought) at the 1989 Oscars. That stance prevented him from accepting a future job as director of The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and almost cost him the Sheriff role in Unforgiven (1992), which he reluctantly accepted after being convinced by Clint Eastwood, a role that earned great acclaim, and his second Oscar. (From IMDB)

Rating – Oscar Worthy


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12 thoughts on “Mississippi Burning (1988)

  1. I love this movie. Agree with everything you said. Very powerful – which is always a testament to a film when you know the story, which I did when I saw it. I recall some controversy at the time about it making the white characters the heroes of the piece (the FBI agents), but the villains were all white as well (and there was a Black FBi agent in a key role in a key scene). A friend of mine was friends with Chris Gerolmo, who wrote the screenplay, and I think he said that he didn’t get on well with the director, Alan Parker – who had a rep for being difficult to work with. Interesting that Parker was nominated for his direction, but not Gerolmo for his screenplay. Also – Hackman was nominated, but not Dafoe – who was equally as good. And another nominee – who was superb in probably the first movie in which I saw her – was Frances McDormand – who went on to win Best Actress for FARGO and will probably be nominated again this year for Three Billboards Outdies Ebbing, Missouri.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yep, I like FM, but she was much better in Fargo than here. Havent seen 3B yet..

      Dafoe was quite popular at the time because of his role in Platoon two years earlier, but he never really hit the big time like Hackman did.

      Plus the fact that Dafoe was a by-the-book character and GH was the innovative one it does make sense that they would chose H over D.

      Doesn’t matter in the long run cause No one coulda beaten Hoffman that year


      • I wasn’t comparing McDormand’s performance here in a supporting role to her lead in Fargo. Fargo is a gem. But her abused wife here was one of the linchpin performances in THIS movie. Dafoe also has a very distinct look – and where Hackman jumped the character actor category and went on to play leading men – Dafoe never really did. They were very good together in this. The scene where Hackman gets physical and ends up with Dafoe’s gun shoved into his face, for example. As for Hoffman – you’re right on that. And ironic – since he and Hackman (and Robert Duvall!!) all shared an apartment in NYC as young actors. All went on to become Oscar winners. And Hackman claims to this day, that Dustin owes him money.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a great movie which I can only watch once, and I did. It’s too hard to consume and there are rough scenes I couldn’t deal with. Reality in your face. Gene Heckman is a great actor and his role on Mississippi Burning is definitely one of the most memorable ones in cinema history. Great review, Rob.

    Liked by 1 person

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