Review: Judas and the Black Messiah
William O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) is facing charges for stealing a vehicle when he's given an ultimatum by FBI agent Mitchelle (Jesse Plemmons) jail, or become an informant and infiltrate the Black Panther party and give information on the charismatic leader of the Illinois division, Fred Hampton. (Daniel Kaluuya)
We saw Fred Hampton briefly in another recently released film, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and while that touched briefly on what happened to him, this is obviously a much more in depth look on his story and that of the person who played a hand in his eventual death. Charismatic is almost an understatement for Hampton. In person, he's quiet and thoughtful, but when he's on stage he has the ability to to make everyone rise up and listen. The racists within the FBI were terrified of him for that.
There's plenty of films that touch on the Black Panther party and I'm sure I'm ignorant of many more in depth portrayals, but for me Judas and the Black Messiah showed a side of it that I feel like I haven't seen in a while. They showed them meeting with other marginalized groups and the ways they helped mobilize. I appreciated the film for that.
The actors are amazing. Daniel Kaluuya is a force. I thought he was great as Hampton, especially when he was giving speeches. LaKeith Stanfield does a fantastic job as well. His performances isn't as showy as Kaluuya's but he plays the conflicted O'Neal well, and when they show footage of the real man towards the end of the film, you can see just how well LaKeitha got his mannerisms down. Another wonderful performances comes from Dominique Fishback, who plays Fred's girlfriend Deborah. She had great promise in last year's Project Power and I'm glad she came out so strong with this right after. Deborah spends the majority of the film pregnant with she and Fred's baby and offers an interesting perspective on how she has to deal with Fred's revolution.
The film does take a bit to get going at times, but I loved Shaka King's vision and the way this was shot.
Memorable Quote: "Show me a badge!" - William O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield)