This Alan Parker-directed docudrama was a far more deserving recipient of the 1988 Best Picture Oscar than the lame-as-a-snooty-dame "Rain Man".FBI agents Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe are sent down to a small Mississippi town in 1964 to investigate the disappearance of two civil-rights activists and the African-American teenager they were transporting. Based on a true story but considerably fictionalized by screenwriter Chris Gerolmo, this controversial Oscar-winner angered many for placing the white heroes front and center, and the blacks into the background. Yet a film, whether it's based on a true story or not, should be judged for what it is and not what it isn't. Yes, an interesting film could have been made of a story told from a black character's perspective; however, with two white characters sharing that duty, Mississippi Burning still manages to function as a riveting and disturbing film that works as an involving crime drama, a scathing social expose, and a touching love story. The nature of racism is perceptively explored here (poor white Southerners thinking themselves better than blacks is the only thing of pride they can hold onto) and given a seedy texture that gets under your skin (you can practically see it oozing out of a racist bartender's bulging veins), and the psychological complexity staggering (like an FBI agent's manipulative tactic of using romance to get information out of a deputy's wife -- who is repulsed by her husband's violent bigotry -- with little regard for the consequences). Alan Parker directs flawlessly and demonstrates a genuine feel for the Deep South that eluded him in his otherwise-splendid Angel Heart from the year before; and even when the writing occasionally bogs things down and the strong-arm tactics employed by the FBI come off as more entertaining than plausible, Parker manages to frame everything in a realistic context that we can respond to. In a film full of many delights, the greatest of them is Gene Hackman's magnificent, career-capping performance as the more perceptive of the agents, one who can ingratiate himself even in a room full of bigots yet can swing into a Shakespearean rage in the face of hostility that's truly frightening to behold.Gene Hackman won Best Actor awards from both the National Board of Review and the Berlin International Film Festival, and cinematographer Peter Biziou took home the Oscar for his top-grade work.