When three civil rights activists go missing in a small Mississippi town, FBI agents Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe arrive to investigate and ignite a powder keg of racial tension.
Alan Parker’s grim indictment of institutional racism is one gut-wrenchingly powerful scene after another. Not only a gripping detective story, it also documents the appalling conditions African Americans had to endure in the not-so distant past. The pairing of college educated agent Dafoe who naively thought he could bluster into this insular community and instantly set the world to rights and Hackman’s powerhouse performance as an ex-good ol’ boy from the deep south himself works brilliantly; particularly the friction caused by Dafoe mistaking Hackman’s laid back seen-it-all-before attitude for indifference. Frances McDormand also puts in a performance of quiet dignity as one of the good people of the community forced to keep silent by fear of the deep-seated hatred that surrounds her.
Horrifyingly, this story was based on actual events and is for me, one of the best thrillers ever made.