JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (2021)

Directed By: Shaka King
Written By: Shaka King & Will Berson
Story By: Shaka King, Will Berson, Kenneth Lucas & Keith Lucas
Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt
Editor: Kristin Sprague

Cast: LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Dominique Thorne, Robert Longstreet, Jermaine Fowler 

Fred Hampton, a young, charismatic activist, becomes Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party – putting him directly in the crosshairs of the government, the FBI, and the Chicago Police. But to destroy the revolution, the authorities are going to need a man on the inside.


This movie is so much more than one might think. It is a historical account of the cos piracy behind the assassination of Fred Hampton who was 21 at the time, but instead of just recreating and renacting moments that lead to his downfall.

The film offers a character piece of sorts not only of Fred Hampton but also of the man who worked as a confidential informant to get intel about him and the black panthers.

The film shows Hampton to be a hero and revolutionary but also a human being. Trying to fight for his people and civil rights. While it seemed at every turn the government was eagerly planning and arranging his downfall. Where it seems that after he is released from jail the weight of everything really starts to hit him and he seems to know that his time might be coming to an end, but still so more concerned for Those around him and the people he is trying to save. All do this and he was only 21 years old. If he achieved all of this at such a young age imagine what he could have accomplished had he lived. 

That is sort of the tragedy imagine what could have been accomplished if there wasn’t a conspiracy against minorities whenever they try to stand up for themselves.

The film doesn’t shy away, As it never does with showing how demeaning black people were treated and unjust and antagonized that they are. It shows that he even inspired street gangs to come together to form a community to help their own communities.

The film does show some of the behind-the-scenes of the F.B.I and their tactics to take him down. It even Shows the point of view of an idealistic agent who actually believes that the black Panther party is more of a terrorist group and he believes in civil rights for all and becomes dismayed by what he see’s continuously as unjust but keeps following orders with no kind of resistance until he has an awakening that jailing Hampton is not enough and what his superiors want. As jail just empowers freedom fighters. The end goal is death and while he likes to think he and the agency are better than that. He is questioned how would he feel if his daughter brought a black man home and he then comes face to face with his own prejudice and realizes he is just as bad and will tow the company line.

The difference between this movie and some others is that in other films he would gain his soul back and ask us to be sympathetic towards him. This film doesn’t do that it allows to show that he has a choice between right and wrong which he knows and he chooses the wrong knowing it is bad and against what he supposedly stands for. Making him worse than those he and his co-workers choose to take down. 

This film is beautifully and masterfully directed and you feel every moment and every scene. Every performance even smaller ones make you take notice and care.

Daniel Kaliuya is mesmerizing in the role of Fred Hampton which he inhabits with strength and swagger commanding your attention in every scene he is in and making you feel sympathy when he is faced with challenges beyond his control. 

He has played leads before and is usually memorable in films, but this is the first time it feels like has gone above and beyond.

Lakeith Stansfeld continues to impress he is more the lead here as William O’Neil who is a hustler and minor criminal who gets roped into this to avoid jail time at first and then realizes he can’t walk away. Especially as his loyalties get stronger more towards Hampton and the cause. A kind of Donnie Brasco situation only here the panthers aren’t the criminals and are trying to better things. We can see the despair it places on him and in the end the pittance he is given for sacrificing someone who actually became a friend 

Stansfeld shows all the emotions and complexities of his character and the inner destruction his actions cause. He shows off his cunningness and skills of thinking on his feet and ultimately the defeat of his soul. Even in the alter scenes his paranoia.

This is refreshing as get to see him play a solid character and not the quirky roles that he has gotten pigeonholed with in the past. Showing he has leading man chops and quite a wide range.

Though these two are at the center of the story and film. The film does allow for side stories and characters. Like two best friends who join and meet unfortunate violent ends away from one another. One is purposely assassinated the other goes full-on vigilante after his death.

This is a film that is powerful and humanizes names and people you might have heard about in history books and while they are legends abd martyrs this film allows them to be recognized and humanized. 

Ultimately this film is a tragedy. It hits all the more as it is based on truth. So that by the end you are devastated, but you marvel at what you have just watched and sat through

Grade: A

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