Judas and the Black Messiah
review by Bobby Blakey
Some of the most powerful films are ones dealing with real life people and events. The latest, Judas and the Black Messiah looks to be one of those films and features a great cast including Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders and Martin Sheen with director Shaka King at the helm. Could this film capture the true essence of the events that unfolded or will it be a revolution not worth fighting?
Judas and The Black Messiah follows a young, charismatic activist named Fred Hampton in 1968 who became Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, who were fighting for freedom, the power to determine the destiny of the Black community, and an end to police brutality and the slaughter of Black people. Chairman Fred was inspiring a generation to rise up and not back down to oppression, which put him directly in the line of fire of the government, the FBI and the Chicago Police. But to destroy the revolution, they had to do it from both the outside…and the inside. Facing prison, William O’Neal is offered a deal by the FBI: if he will infiltrate the Black Panthers and provide intel on Hampton, he will walk free.
It is baffling to me that this story hasn’t been fully told in a film before outside of documentaries. It could not have come at a better time and sadly still just as relevant today as it was then and even more so. This is a powerful film that should baffle and anger anyone that watches it. Sure you can look at the Black Panthers in different ways depending on which of them you focus on, but prior to them really pushing the limits it was clear Hampton was trying to unify and improve things for all races. Daniel Kaluuya steps into these big shoes with ease and delivers a great performance. His moments delivering Hampton’s speeches will give you goosebumps.
On the other side of the coin is William O’Neal who is forced into something he really doesn’t want to be a part of but ultimately plays both sides. Lakeith Stanfield is great here having to play essentially two roles that exist in the same
person and does so with ease. These two guys give brilliant performances that not only bring the essence and power of these real life figures to life, but also feed off of each other to make for a great film. The supporting cast are all great as well with the only slightly off visual being that of Martin Sheen. He is great in the role and the make-up isn’t horrible, but I think seeing him in there just made it look off to me.
This film could not have come at a more perfect time and is maddening that it is showcasing things people are still dealing with. This is not only a great film that is powerful, sad, inspirational, and sometimes cringe worthy in the depiction of events that unfolded. This is a must see movie for not only its excellence, but to keep the message alive of Hampton and all those still fighting these injustices today.
In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including featurettes taking you behind bringing this true story to life. Join the revolution and grab your copy of Judas and the Black Messiah available now on digital and then Blu-ray and DVD on May 4th from Warner Bros Home Entertainment.