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Ghosts of Mississippi 1996

The widow of murdered civil rights leader Medger Evers and a district attorney struggle to finally bring the murderer to justice...

Release Date:
January 2, 1997, UTC
130 min
Rob Reiner
Craig T. Nelson, Whoopi Goldberg, Spencer Garrett, ...

Your rating:0

Solar rating:9.3


Imdb rating:6.6



Best in Show: Alec Baldwin
One for the future: William H. Macy (character actor extraordinaire)
Stand-out scene: Courtroom climax
Brainer or no-brainer: Brainer
Stands up to one viewing or repeated?: Repeated
DVD commentary any good?: n/a

Like its sister-movie Mississippi Burning, this is based on a true story. In 1963 Civil Rights campaigner Medgar Evers was gunned down in cold blood in his driveway in front of his wife and three young children. Thirty years later D.A. Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin) is appointed to prosecute Klansman Bryon De La Beckwith for the murder by Evers' widow Myrlie Evers. The first two trials saw Beckwith acquitted by a hung jury and Myrlie hopes that in the more inclusive nineties justice will be seen to be done. As a courtroom drama this is familiar stuff but director Rob Reiner infuses enough comic relief and twists and turns to make this a fascinating and compelling movie. Solid characterisation is often the key to a movie that lingers in the memory and Reiner has assembled an accomplished cast to do the material justice; Virginia Madsen, William H. Macy and especially James Woods who brings seedy menace to the character of 'Delay' Beckwith. Members of the Evers family and participants in the trial appear as themselves, adding to the authenticity of the film. Though-provoking and just the right side of over-earnest this is a film worth watching.
Comments pending.
Well, this is my first entry.
(** 1/2)
Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
My two most recent viewings were those films Hollywood types love so much. They are 'important' movies that really are decidedly not important in cinematic terms, and usually not really all that important in social terms either, even when Hollywood likes to think they are. They often take the form of either war movies or coutroom dramas.

Anyhow, both of these are courtroom dramas. And frankly, I'm a sucker for them. I like them even when I know they are hokey and silly. As for the 'important' social messages, well, let's just say I don't really disagree, so I don't really mind.

Anyhow, they are:

Ghosts of Mississippi
Directed by: Rob Reiner

Both these essentially unimportant 'important' message movies follow the basic Hollywood formulas with big stars, glossy camerawork, big dramatic buildups, etc.

However, they also have two fairly talented, 'etablishment' Hollywood directors directing them. I like Rob Reiner's films, and Demme has talent, even though I'm less of a fan of his style, and yes, both do feature some good performances.

Hanks' performance as a gay man dying of AIDS isn't remarkable, and probably wouldn't have won him an oscar had he been a straight man dying of cancer, but ignor that. It's still an excellent performance. Denzel Washington plays...a slightly sleazy version of himself. It's effective.

Alex Baldwin is incapable of being more then 'pretty good', and this film is no exception. James Woods, however, is a cronically underrated actor, and he tares up the screen as the bligerant old racist who killed Medgar Everts, a civil rights attorney, and who escaped justice because of racism and corruption for 25 years.

They both follow the basic courtroom drama clishes, but both do it with a sense of style and suspense. You know the outcome in both films, but it's still fun to watch.

These important 'message' movies are virtually always heavy-handed and self important, with a few exceptions, but these aren't ones. Both are patting themselves on the back, etc.

That said, neither is an uninteresting topic, and neither is handled poorly.I liked the scene in Philadelpha where Hanks is obviously sick, and researching at a law library when the library clerk, who just got through pulling AIDS related cases, tries to move him into a private room so he won't 'infect' anybody. It's a very well handled scene. I also liked the way that Ghosts of Mississippi handled the historical context of the film. It was an effortless, smooth run between the two.

I found the characters more interesting in Philadelpha, and the acting was overall better, and it also had a stronger, les clishe ending. However, I found the atmosphere of the deep south and the overall courtroom drama better in Ghosts of Mississippi.

So, take from it what you will. Both these movies are definately creations of Hollywood. Reiner is probably my favorite of the big 'important' hollywood directors (by that, I mean people like him, Howard, Demme, etc.) and Hanks is my favorite Hollywood sweetheart actor. And I like courtroom dramas.

They deliver on those levels well.

Ghosts of Mississippi: 7.0

Philadelphia: 7.0
This was pretty cute, I guess. But I think it's just another civil rights film that doesn't really get emotional until the ending.
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