UK Release date: 5th May 1989
Watched on Terrestrial PVR Thursday 25th July 2013.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE UNINTENTIONAL SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is a film I have seen a couple of times before but this is the first time I’ve really sat down and watched it. I never realised before just how good it really is! I know it’s not a subject matter that some may feel is relevant today, but it’s still a very powerful piece of cinema and deserves recognition for that, if nothing else. Here’s a very brief summary before I give you my thoughts.
When three civil rights activists go missing in a small town in Mississippi in 1964, the FBI is called in to investigate. In charge is the younger Agent Alan Ward (Willem Dafoe) with the much older and wiser Agent Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman) in tow. Having got short shrift from the local sheriff, Ray Stuckley (Gailard Sartain), Ward tries to speak to some of the black residents of the town, this does not go down well and results in those he had spoken to being beaten for their trouble. Eventually the car the missing men had been driving is found and Ward brings in more men, a lot of them. Suspicion falls on Deputy Clinton Pell (Brad Dourif), but he has the whole town covering for him, including his wife (Frances McDormand). Anderson befriends her but she will not budge on her story. It seems the whole town is scared of the KKK, but nobody wants to speak about it. Eventually though they get a break and Ward reluctantly agrees to use Anderson’s somewhat cavalier methods. Does it pay off? Well I guess that would be a spoiler now wouldn’t it.
Although based on real events, the filmmakers go to great lengths to make it clear that this is a work of fiction. As such it works very well; it is a very powerful drama that puts the fight for civil rights to the fore. I must say I found it quite thought provoking, very well made and really well shot. The performances were all excellent with (for me), Gene Hackman standing out; although I thought Willem Dafoe was very good and Brad Dourif was excellent as the loathsome Deputy Pell. I also have to mention a couple of small roles; it was nice to see both Stephen Tobolowsky as Clayton Townley and R. Lee Ermey as Mayor Tilman; I know they didn’t have an awful lot to do, but they were both quality. Over all, an interesting drama that kept me interested all the way through – a definite ‘must’ for any cinephile.
SteelMonster’s verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
My score: 8.7/10.
IMDb Score: 7.8/10 (based on 45,417 votes when this review was written).
MetaScore: 65/100: (Based on 11 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 63/100 (based on 38,017 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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