judas and the black messiah
DIRECTOR: Shaka King (newlyweds)
STARRING: daniel kaluuya, lakeith stanfield, dominque fishback and jesse plemons
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O'Neal infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a biographical drama directed by Shaka King and written by King and Will Berson. Utterly compelling and equally shocking, Judas tells the story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), the young and charismatic leader of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, and his betrayal by Bill O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield).
What a raw deal it was to be poor and black in 1960s Chicago. Systemic oppression restrained one at every turn through education, housing, financing and certainly both law enforcement and the legal system. One could almost be led into thinking that it was inevitable that poor young black people coalescing into groups with an aim, a name and a purpose could be exactly the source of terror and chaos that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI would have had middle American believe them to be. How could they be anything else? So malignant this attitude was to humanity.
How profound indeed it is to see the story of Fred Hampton portrayed so powerfully and emphatically here in Judas; a man who encouraged marginalised people to care for themselves and their futures, to unite and band together to brace against the oppressiveness of the society they all faced together. How injurious the attitude of law enforcement was towards these people; so utterly indifferent to their plight.
A towering performance by Daniel Kaluuya as Hampton (he has already won a Golden Globe for the role) coupled with a complex and compelling portrayal of Bill O'Neal by Stanfield with sharp writing and directing from Shaka King make Judas and the Black Messiah easily one of the most captivating films of the year. Certainly it is no easy watch, but the reasons above combined with the film’s timely themes make Judas and the Black Messiah an essential watch.
Sharp writing and directing from Shaka King makes Judas and the Black Messiah easily one of the most captivating films of the year.