Gene Hackman received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Agent Rupert Anderson in Mississippi Burning.
Gene Hackman strangely enough has only received two lead nominations, and both are for portraying hard boiled law officers, although this time it is a FBI agent rather than a police officer who hates FBI agents as he played in The French Connection. Hackman portrays Anderson who is one of two lead FBI agents on the case the other being Agent Ward (Willem Dafoe). Ward being the serious idealistic by the books agent, whereas Anderson is the sardonic, tougher, street smart former Mississippian sheriff.
Hackman most certainly has an incredible ease in the role that plays well off of Willem Dafoe's purposeful stiffness. Hackman makes Anderson's sardonic attitude is well attuned for the film story. Hackman has an interesting way about himself in that he generally acts rather jovial to everyone, with his unique smile, and simple charm, but than comes out with his anger and intensity when the situation calls for it.
Hackman has the perfect control in every situation where he confront the Ku Klux clan members. Hackman is great the way he comes in his rather simple fashion, smiling telling his stories of Mississippi well carefully mocking their racism at the same time, then Hackman's intensity is a incredible visceral effect that shows Anderson's complete control of various situations.
Anderson's whole past is interestingly developed as Hackman shows the long history of the character and his past in the south. Hackman's telling of Anderson's story of his father's racism, shows not only Anderson's past but as well Anderson's complete understanding of the situation, and how far he knows the Ku Klux clan will go.
I can't quite say the entire past of Anderson is perfectly told though. As why exactly did he become a FBI agent? This really is not answered by either Hackman, or the film. It really was not in the film though so I really can't blame Hackman for not establishing this. I do like Hackman whole treatment of the entire situation with a certian cynicism that does give a little indication of Anderson's entire thought on the whole situation in Mississippi.
A pivotal part of the film is Anderson's relationship with his potential key witness Mrs. Pell (Frances McDormand). Their relationship is carefully played by Hackman. Hackman underplays all of Anderson's emotions toward her that are past her being a witness. Hackman never makes Anderson's feelings too obvious but he rather carefully establishes it without overplaying, and manages to keep it fairly realistic despite the somewhat contrived nature of this plot point.
Hackman gives a good performance that moves along well with the film. He is natural realistic, as well as well as in some scenes entertaining and powerful in some of his beat up KKK members scenes. I particularly like his whole scene where he meets the members at the "gentleman's club". I can't quite say this is a completely amazing performance, but it is more certianly a good and effective performance from Gene Hackman.