Judas and the Black Messiah is a 2021 American biographical drama film about the betrayal of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in late-1960s Chicago, at the hands of William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), an FBI informant. (Source: Wikipedia).
Judas and the Black Messiah grossed $2.5 million from 1,888 theaters. Daniel Kaluuya plays role of Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah movie.
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The film (Judas and the Black Messiah) was originally scheduled to be released on August 21, 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic it was released on February 12, 2021, in the United States, by Warner Bros.
The movie focuses on the last year or so in the life of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Panthers’ Illinois chapter. He was only 21 when he was killed in 1969 by Chicago police during a raid on his apartment that was planned with the FBI. This is a very smartly crafted film that outlives the hype and praise it well deserves in the moment. Every aspect of this film is a sight to behold.
Judas and The Black Messiah Review
Judas & The Black Messiah is such a good movie that isn’t being advertised very well. I mean, the trailer caught a lot of people’s eye, but they didn’t give you a good idea as to what the movie’s about. What a true story and how well the movie is made. This is I would say this is this is like a Scorsese style film thing, Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, The Irishman.
Instead of this being a story about the Mafia and a lot of Scorsese, these stories also were based on real events. But instead of the Mafia, we’re talking about social activist groups in the late 1960s, like the Black Panther Party versus the FBI. Fascinatingly and tragically, there are a lot of similarities to Mafia stories here.
It’s also fascinating when you think about where we are now and the distances we still have to go, but we’ve come early on in the movie. I love this movie. Fred Hampton is talking about talking to his disciples about war versus politics and he describes politics as war, but without bloodshed.
It made me think about how Stacey Abrams, who was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. When you think about it in the context of that, that description, that totally even more makes sense. But Stacey Abrams recent huge political victory and her mobilization of black voters and how that was so successful and was built on the actions and ideas of civil rights leaders like Fred Hampton. Now, again, this is a true story, a true story, which everyone should know.
It’s about the complex civil rights movement. Right after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were new leaders were trying to emerge and how the FBI was trying to stop that from happening. This is very interesting because when you review trial of the Chicago Seven, it pointed out. You will still know about trial in Chicago seven a little bit later in this review, because these are these stories happen at the same time. You know protest movements need leaders.
Early on in the film, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, played by a scowling Martin Sheen, identifies Hampton as a dangerous threat — a potential “Black Messiah” who will incite violence and empower other left-leaning political groups. And so the FBI enlists a young petty crook named William O’Neal, played by LaKeith Stanfield, to infiltrate the Black Panthers in Chicago and help bring Hampton down.
O’Neal is thus the Judas of the title, and having the story unfold primarily from his perspective turns out to be a shrewd decision. As an outsider, O’Neal provides a natural point of entry: It’s through his eyes that we witness the Panthers’ work in their Black communities, through free medical clinics and kids’ breakfast programs.
Like we knew J. Edgar Hoover had problems and was bad. But, you know, just to see the scope of what he did is just incredible and horrific. It’s also a story of incredible betrayal. Drawing a parallel between William O’Neal and Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus is not only a powerful comparison, but accurate, seeing the extent of William O’Neal Dozier. You just won’t believe it. It was like it was like almost Shakespearean in the tragedy.
Very brave performance by Keith Stanfield, a man he’s playing a man not just lying to others, but himself. There are brilliant little moments in this performance here. Director Shaka King and Standfield give us just glimpses of when O’Neal can’t help but smile to himself thinking he’s so clever. They’re so well done. And it was just it was just, you know, like someone might see you smiling, like but he just can’t help himself because he feels he’s just so mischievous and he’s doing such a great job.
But he has no idea where this path is going to ultimately take him and everyone else. And on that same level that Stanfield is able to play a Judas character like this and still make him sympathetic. Oh, my God. Like what a nuanced and dynamic performance. Wow. And also that I want I want to again underscore what, you know, that wouldn’t be possible without excellent direction by King and writing by Wil Berson and King together.
These guys clearly stayed in the game, paid attention to what was going on around them. And now that they have their shot, they have delivered a movie that feels like it was made by seasoned professionals. It’s incredible. Ryan Coogler produced this year and he continues to not just be talented himself, but clearly has an incredible eye for talent in others.
The Lucas brothers had the idea of making a movie about what happened to Fred Hampton in the first place. It was their idea and they receive story credit here. So they were still you know, they’re still somewhat involved with the production.
This is a film full of great performances beyond Standfield. Well, Daniel Kaluuya is 10 years older than Fred Hampton was at this time. And the only problem there is that you don’t realize when you’re watching the movie just how young Hampton was. Which itself is also incredible, but still, that’s a minor thing, Kaluuya’s performance is not only mesmerizing but different than anything else we’ve ever seen from Kaluuya before. And when you think about how Daniel Kaluuya is British, this is like a transformation acting wise.
That’s like Christian Bale level. It’s that impressive. What Hampton was able to accomplish through just words and first force of personality is amazing. Also, Jerusalem in the Black Messiah is very fair to the Black Panther Party. It’s a complex situation which the movie makes you understand. It doesn’t shy away from some of the horrible violence of the members of the Black Panther Party, but also it shows that violence was spurred on by violence, horrible violence by the police. You know, you have very much a situation back then that we’re still dealing with today with Black Lives Matter. And, you know, that’s why it’s interesting to see the evolution of the black community, you know, confronting this and trying to deal with it.
The Black Panther Party was largely peaceful and only took up weapons and what they felt was self-defense. And in some cases here you can see that’s a valid argument. You watch this movie and you feel obviously you can’t go after the police like that.
Watch this movie and you see how talented Fred Hampton was politically. And it’s just so horrible that at the time, nobody and thank goodness we have made some progress in this regard, because you do have politicians like Stacey Abrams that nobody was willing or even if they were willing to, they weren’t able to approach Fred Hampton and legitimize the Black Panther Party, which clearly had so many wonderful ideas and was the foundation for many of today’s movements instead of the eye for an eye situation that developed in Chicago, which was just horrific and again, tragic, by the way, this movie takes place at the same time and place in Chicago as Netflix’s trial of the Chicago seven.
In fact, Fred Hampton is even a minor character who shows up briefly in that film. Both are excellent movies. But the trial of the Chicago Seven plays more like a courtroom play, like in the theater. Well, Judas in the Black Messiah is far more cinematic. So If trial the Chicago Seven does better awards wise, it’s strictly on Aaron Sorkin’s reputation over the over the years. But I think Judas in the Black Messiah is a little bit better.
In addition to Standfield in Kaluuya who Warner Brothers is putting forward for best actor and best supporting actor respectively. Jesse Plemons love Jesse Plemons and he once again is amazing here, playing an equally complex role as O’Neills FBI handler who finds himself under tremendous pressure from outside forces but also makes some pretty horrible choices on his own.
This movie “Judas and the Black Messiah” represents a disciplined, impassioned effort to bring clarity to a volatile moment, to dispense with the sentimentality and revisionism that too often cloud movies about the ’60s and about the politics of race.
One of the virtues of Judas and the Black Messiah is that it gives us such a captivating sense of who Hampton was. He’s played here by an electrifying Daniel Kaluuya, who captures the young man’s gift for inspiring other activists and his ferocious critique of the nation’s white power structure.
In summary, the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” tells the story of Fred Hampton, the Chicago Black Panther leader who was shot to death by law enforcement authorities in 1969. The film is generating Oscar buzz in all the major categories, including best picture.
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