AlfredAngier’s review published on Letterboxd:
“He did that, but that ain’t all he did"
Sometimes a film will come along and remind us that no matter how much progress we think we've made, we still haven't moved that far forward and we need only look to the past to show how little actual positive change has happened at a systemic level in how Black Americans are treated and thought of in this country.
This is one of those movies and the parallels it drew from 1969 to today are too real, although not a surprise to anyone paying attention or having to live as Black person in America.
Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) is a rising leader in the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party whose eloquence and passion inspire everyone around him to unite for the improvement of their lives.
According to the police and newspapers he's a homegrown terrorist.
His terrorism includes feeding thousands of meals to Balck children every week, uniting poor Black, Puerto Rican and White communities and demanding that the police stop murdering the people of his community which includes violently defending themselves if necessary.
What else would any sane person do if a gang swept into their neighborhood and murdered at will? You can't call the police since the police are that gang.
Of coure all the uniting and refusing to be subjugated (Is there anything more American than that?) is a direct threat to J. Edgar Hoover and the system so the FBI has a mole planted.
Bill (LaKeith Stanfield) is on the hook for car theft and is told that if he reports on the goings on of Fred and the BPP he won't get charged for his crime or go to prison.
What follows is one of the most depressing looks at how the system is continually set into motion against Black equality and the role that white Americans play by doing nothing to further the founding tenet of this country, that all are created equal all the while benefiting from the status quo without ever wondering why armed Balck people are considered dangerous terrorists but whites with guns are considered law abiding citizens just trying to protect themselves.
From the police arresting Fred on a charge of stealing $70 worth of ice cream (For which he is sentenced to several years in jail) to firebombing the Balck Panther Party headquarters in broad daylight after instigating a shootout to plotting the assassination of Fred the day before his return to prison, anything and everything that can be done to stop this Black revolutionary is done because he might actually affect change and Black lives have never mattered as much as white ones.
The stench of a rotten system can almost be smelled through the screen and this film made me ask myself yet again why the impetus seems to always be on the Black community to work harder and earn the freedom that whites take for granted, instead of taking a hard look at the fact that for every half a step forward that the Black community takes they are pushed three steps back by the system that white American's set up to benefit them and the broken system we have continues to mete out different "justice" depending on your skin color, which includes government and state sanctioned murder.
If anyone thinks this movie isn't relevant or that the system has improved since the events depicted here, just remember: 50 years after Fred Hampton's murder, in his own home, while sleeping, Breonna Taylor had the same thing happen to her. And her murderers walked free too.
This is America.