Based on the wild, true story of FBI informant William O’Neil (LaKeith Stanfield). Judas and the Black Messiah not only tells the tale of O’Neil’s undercover operation of the Black Panther party, but also paints a picture of one of the most impactful figures of the 60s, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).
The already intense subject matter is depicted brilliantly by director Shaka King. The disturbing systematic racism is on full display. King, who also co-wrote the film with Will Berson draws parallels with today’s mistreatment of people, which will leave you feeling sick to your stomach long after the film ends. At times the film drags, threatening to lose the attention of the audience, but there are always bright sparks and moments of brilliance to pull you back in.
Terrific supporting roles from Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback and Martin Sheen warrant viewers’ attention, but the captivating performances of Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield steal the show. Kaluuya in particular is earning worldwide praise and awards for his performance, having recently been awarded a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. Viewers may be familiar with the story and how it concludes, being based on a true story. But the lack of mystery is not evident, thanks to the excellent acting ability the entire cast possesses. There is never a predictable moment when these actors are on screen.
The weight and severity of the story is made more important by the technical aspects of the film. The fast-paced editing mixed with the cinematography makes for seamless transitions from one scene to another. The production design and costume design are true to life, matching the atmosphere of the era. However, it is the score that is most noticeable. The tone is set by the masterful score. Whether a scene is heartfelt, or action packed, it is always driven forward by music.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a film set to last long in the memories of those who viewed it. It’s story from another era is somehow still relevant to this day, further demonstrating the systematic racism that people have to endure. This is not only a well made film, but an educational one that deserves a viewing.
Film Review by Felix Baldassi-Winderlich