After three civil rights workers in Mississippi are reported missing in 1964, two FBI agents are sent to investigate the incident in rural Jessup County, Mississippi. The two agents take completely different approaches: Agent Alan Ward (Dafoe), a young liberal northerner, takes a direct approach to the investigation; Agent Rupert Anderson (Hackman), a former Mississippi sheriff who understands the intricacies of race relations in the South, takes a more subtle tack. It is very hard for the two to work in the town, as the local sheriff’s office is linked to a major branch of the Ku Klux Klan, and the agents cannot talk to the local black community, due to their fear of Klan retaliation. Slowly but steadily, relations between the FBI and the local Jessup County sheriff’s office deteriorate, as do relations between Ward and Anderson. Things boil over when the bodies are found and the deputy sheriff, Clinton Pell (Brad Dourif), realizes that his wife gave their locations to Anderson, and he assaults her. When Anderson sees her in the hospital, he storms off to confront Pell but is stopped by Ward. After a violent fight and battle of wills, the two agree that they will work together to bring down the Jessup County branch of the Ku Klux Klan using Anderson’s as yet untried approach…

This is a strong and very difficult film from Alan Parker with specifically Gene Hackman in a fantastic form. The dynamics between Ward and Anderson and their strong will to do whatever it takes to bring down the guilty (even if they want to do it in different ways) and with a truly terrible backdrop of racism in the 60s makes an emotional film that will stay with you forever. I had forgotten some parts of it from since I saw “Mississippi Burning” at the movies in 1988, but all the difficult scenes were vivid in my mind. I reckon “Mississippi Burning” should be shown for everyone to get a grip of the terrible act of racism. A topic that is still way too current today. Despite the criticism of not being entirely accurate storywise the message it is still very strong and to the point. (4 out of 5)

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