Movie Review: Judas and the Black Messiah

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STARRING: DANIEL KALUUYA, LAKEITH STANFIELD, DOMINIQUE FISHBACK, ROY PLEMONS, ALGEE SMITH, ASHTON SANDERS

DIRECTOR: SHAKA KING

DATE: FEBRUARY 12, 2021

Black History Month is the time of year for African Americans, both young and old, to learn about the forgotten heroes who fought for our right to have the privileges that we have today. As Hollywood loves to debut biopics on fallen Civil Rights Activists, it is often that they’ll only showcase the most overly exposed people of black history such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and Rosa Parks. While these individuals had a deep impact on American History, it is important to acknowledge that there were so many other African American leaders who also fought for us during that time. Fortunately, just in time for Black History Month, Hollywood is finally telling the story of the fallen hero, Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party, in the biopic film, Judas and the Black Messiah.

Judas and the Black Messiah begins in Chicago, Illinois in 1968. The opening scene shows William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) walking outside of a bar observing the surroundings. Suddenly, O’Neal charges through the entrance acknowledging that he’s an FBI agent interrogating a group of young men who were playing pool. He searched all of the men claiming that one of them was in a stolen car and attempted to arrest one of them, however, one of the men noticed how hesitant O’Neal was and realized he wasn’t an agent at all. O’Neal immediately ran out of the bar with one of the men’s car keys and and stole his car. He was arrested shortly thereafter. As O’Neal is waiting in the interrogation room of the Chicago Police Station, an actual FBI agent, Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons), offers him a special deal to avoid prison time.

Meanwhile, at a student speech rally, Chairman of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) was giving a speech to empower young African American students by encouraging them to join the organization and fight for their cause. As the speech was wrapping up, Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback) greeted Hampton to give him compliments that his speech was very moving and inspiring for her personally, stating that he had the heart of a poet. Fred felt delighted that his speech inspired another black mind that he hoped he would eventually see again in the near future.

The next day, Fred is giving a lecture on War and Politics to his Black Panther members. Fellow members Jake Winters (Algee Smith) and Larry Robertson (Ashton Sanders) answer the majority of Fred’s questions since they are some of his most trusted allies. While Fred continued his lecture, he noticed one particular new member was disturbing a woman while she was trying to listen. Fred being angered that this new member was interrupting his lecture and bothering other members from learning, forced the member to do push-ups as punishment. The new member just happened to be William O’Neal. Turns out the special deal O’Neal took to avoid prison time was to infiltrate the Black Panther Party as an FBI informant and ultimately become the downfall of Fred Hampton.

Judas and the Black Messiah is a gritty film that’ll keep audiences interested from beginning to end. Daniel Kaluuya did a great job portraying the legendary Fred Hampton highlighting all of the good that he had done for his community. LaKeith Stanfield also did an excellent job with his portrayal as William O’Neal considering he was the controversial figure of the film. The overall atmosphere was extremely tense capturing what it was like for the Black Panther Party back in the 1960s. It is a highly regarded film which acknowledges the ugly side of America’s past.

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