Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Judas and the Black Messiah - Movie Review

The Movie: Judas and the Black Messiah

The Director: Shaka King

The Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Lil Rel Howery, Algee Smith, Martin Sheen

The Story: The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O'Neal.

The Review:
I'm glad we are getting to see these types of stories. Stories that go deep into the lives and the history of the actual people who were part of organizations like the Black Panthers. Typically, these men and women's lives are glossed over and simplified to at best either satisfy some sort of quota or at worst to simply villainize them. Director Shaka King breaks down the relationship between Fred Hampton and William O'Neal while also showing how the government used it's usual back handed tactics to tear down all of Hampton's best efforts at improving the lives and opportunities of black people in Chicago.

The heart and soul of this movie absolutely comes from the work put in by LaKeith Stanfield whose performance is worthy of whatever awards and nominations that might come his way. He allows you to really get to know his character and you can understand the decisions he makes based on the situations he is put in. William O'Neal has been known as a traitor, or Judas as the movie's title infers, but to be honest and fair, he never really had a choice, I mean unless he wanted his life to basically be over. A lot of my critic friends have also been raving about Daniel Kaluuya's performance although I had a hard time with it because I only saw the actor not the actual character he was playing. Just didn't work for me.

The production design on this film, one of those technical things I normally don't really get into, was very impressive as it completely immerses you in the styles and culture which really creates a sense of place. The cars, the clothes, the hairstyles, it's all there and it all looks so textured and real, you might think you're looking at documentary footage instead of a reproduced facsimile of the time. I think this is the main thing that really helped to draw me into the story and made it such an engaging experience.

The Verdict:
Judas and the Black Messiah is a solid movie and a powerful story with a strong performance from LaKeith Stanfield. Interesting to finally see the story behind one of the government's most blatant assassination events.

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