Title: Judas and the Black Messiah

Year: 2021

Genre: Biography | Drama | History|

Runtime: 126 min

Director: Shaka King

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons




In 1966, after having a brush with the law, the brazen, seventeen-year-old car thief, William O’Neal, cuts a deal with FBI agent, Roy Martin Mitchell: in exchange for having his charges dropped, Bill must infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party led by the charismatic luminary, Fred Hampton. As FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, aims to cripple the Black Panthers, having already labeled them a threat, Fred Hampton, the unapologetic revolutionary, works his way up to the top, forming unexpected but powerful alliances and the multicultural movement, the Rainbow Coalition. Now, with Judas planted in the heart of the political organization, acting as eyes and ears for the FBI, more and more, the impostor finds himself caught in the throes of his endless fabrications. And, one way or another, the influential black Messiah’s radical activism must be stopped.

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If you think Judas and The Black Messiah is a biography of radical political activist Fred Hampton you’re wrong. It’s instead a The Departed-Esque film narrating a black brother infiltrating the Black Panther’s Party and with its consequences to get Hampton, leader for the party in the 1960s in Chicago. With a black-dominated cast, it gives a perspective from the minority party. And it works well as it engages with strong captivating performances from the leads and beautiful cinematography.

Daniel Kaluuya is a charismatic leader but not as intriguing as he could’ve been. Martin Sheen makes an interesting contribution as J. Edgar Hoover who becomes more radical over time. Most strong in the mix is probably LaKeith Stanfield who makes an emotional journey in the story. Stanfield as the Judas aka Bill O’Neal elevate the quality. It has some interesting scenes given with violent confrontations, profanity, and racial slurs. However, the editing and narrative break from the traditional storytelling with some flashbacks, retrospective voice-over. Initial the film sets on with an exposition dump on the audience.

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The timespan doesn’t add up at all, inconsistent in timeline with small subtle details intact. The fast-forward model is a problem stuck through the whole movie. Much through the story, the action is occasionally added for a cinematic effect, but not for the story. It might have themes just BlackKklansman, Selma, and Do The Right Thing, but is one of few movies touching on the subject of morality of brotherhood and revolution like this one. Even if it’s a treat to follow and cheer for these characters, but the directing and dialogue should be revised one more time.

It’s told with a classic trojan-horse narrative set in the Black Panther’s revolutionary period in 1960, with two parallel stories contradicting each other as the war between each other is surging and people is out on for revenge. It’s entertaining and interesting, for sure. But in some scenes, they get a little overexcited and it won’t connect therefore emotionally.  In the end, not the revolution and impact sought for but either way a decent recall to the 1960s and not the best movie of the year.

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