Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1988. Orion Pictures. Screenplay by Chris Gerolmo. Cinematography by Peter Biziou. Produced by Robert F. Colesberry, Frederick Zollo. Music by Trevor Jones. Production Design by Philip Harrison, Geoffrey Kirkland. Costume Design by Aude Bronson-Howard. Film Editing by Gerry Hambling.
Alan Parker’s drama gets few points for truth, as most of his fact-based films generally do, but he gets high marks for telling an emotionally involving story. Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe play FBI agents on the trail of missing civil rights activists in the Klan-riddled Mississippi of the sixties. While Dafoe is a freedom-fighting youngster with idealism on the brain, Hackman has the burned-out mentality of a small-town sheriff. Their opposing styles collide frequently in their investigation, especially when it threatens to blow up the racially segregated town they’re in. Frances McDormand has a fantastic supporting role as the wife of a racist local deputy, whose testimony might be a key to solving the entire case. Powerful cinematography by Chris Menges is a key seller, though Parker twists history so much (the FBI saves America from the Klan?) for his audiences that it ultimately makes the film less influential than it could have been.
Academy Award: Best Cinematography
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Gene Hackman); Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand); Best Director (Alan Parker); Best Film Editing; Best Sound
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Gene Hackman); Best Director (Alan Parker); Best Screenplay