Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★

A knowledge of American history over the last fifty years and, in particular, a knowledge of what went down in the Black Panther Movement would help but is far from essential in getting a great deal out of Shaka King's superb new film "Judas and the Black Messiah" which tells the story of how Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was betrayed by F.B.I. informant Bill O'Neal leading to his assassination by J. Edgar Hoover's thugs supposedly acting in the name of the law. It's a shocking story and since I wasn't aware of these events before I suppose I approached the film like a piece of good fiction, (it's certainly not trying to be a documentary), and it grips like any really good thriller should.

A terrific Daniel Kaluuya, (in Oscar-worthy form), is Hampton and the consistently brilliant LaKeith Stanfield is just as good as his Judas while Jessie Plemons has his best big-screen role to date as the F.B.I. agent who recruits O'Neal. Dominque Fishback is also very good as the activist who falls for Hampton and has his son. This is an actor's piece in the best sense of the term and it's beautifully shot by Sean Bobbitt. Of course, it's also a deeply political film and the audience for political films is limited and without that prior knowledge I spoke of, you might find some of it confusing but as a thriller about betrayal and as an expose of how ruthless governments can be, (nothing new there, of course), it works superbly and ultimately that's all that matters. How much of it actually happened in the way King tells it I have no idea but it certainly feels right and it deserves to be widely seen.