Set in 1964 Mississippi, two FBI agents investigate three missing civil rights activists. In a town reluctant to give up its racist segregationist ways these two outsiders begin their questioning. The KKK responds by burning crosses, houses, and otherwise battering its "colored" citizens.
This is a powerful drama that reminds us all how ugly racism can be. And (I hope) what good progress this country has made since 1964 with regards to race relations.
The story itself is engaging enough, but the writers have scripted in meaty characters as well. For openers, the two agents come from vastly different backgrounds. Willem Defoe plays the younger by-the-book nearly finessesless agent. He disciplines a radical anger towards this kind of inhumanity with a strict application of law. Gene Hackman, on the other hand, plays a good 'o' boy himself. He's keen to the Southern style and smooth talks his way around town. But he balances that sweet tongue with an ominous threat to the local mentality. He likes to say, "I like baseball -- it's the only time when a black man can wave a stick at a white man and not cause a riot."
These two agents often butt heads with each other while working to flush out the bad guys, these two conflicts drive the film fervor. Well-acted, compelling, good script. Good message.
(Viewed on Cable)