Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★½

Amazing how I chose to watch this movie and "Ray" in the same day. If you were to look at "Ray" you would see a biopic that covers the life of Ray Charles like a Wikipedia page. Now look at what director Shaka King does with "Judas and the Black Messiah" instead of just hitting the highlights he weaves together a cohesive story with deep themes that just so happens to have Fred Hampton and Bill O'Neal as main characters. I went in knowing nothing about either figure so that made me more susceptible to what the movie was saying. I had to listen deeply to what Hampton was saying in his speeches in order to learn who he was and in the process hear his message about the injustices of society. Shaka King knew what he was doing when he plotted this film out. He knew how to tell this story right.
Daniel Kaluuya may be one of the best actors of our generation full stop. What he does with Fred Hampton is electric, tender, and most importantly powerful. There is no mistake in why the title refers to him as "the Black Messiah" because he's on screen and you're glued to him. You want to follow him to the ends of the earth. But the Messiah can only be as good as his "Judas" and Lakeith Stanfield is a worthy counterpart as William O'Neal the FBI informant within the Black Panthers. The audience is always on the fence with how to feel about him because you know he's on the wrong side of history and as the film goes on so does he. The layers he adds to this character who could've been portrayed as a straight villain adds that more spice to this story. The rest of the ensemble is particularly strong but the only one who comes close to the level of Kaluuya and Stanfield is Dominique Fishback as Hampton's Girlfiend Deborah. She feels like the beating heart that keeps this film going and reminds us why Hampton fights. It's for the future.
There is so much to love about "Judas and the Black Messiah" but the biggest take away is how important it feels. But never once does it feel like it's patting itself on the back and saying "look how great we are." The movie lets the facts speak for itself. Fred Hampton made an impact in the world and this was a great way to remind everyone of that. To show why his importance is needed now more than ever. As he says in the film "You can kill a revolutionary but you can't kill a revolution" and that is still sticking with me.

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