Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★½

Judas and the Black Messiah is a terrific biopic/drama based on the true events that led up to the demise of Fred Hampton, the Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers party during the late 1960s.

Shaka King weaves the real life events artfully into a Departed-esque tense drama, where informants question their true allegiance as a very real, very important revolution takes shape in the background.

I went in knowing very little about either the Black Panthers or Fred Hampton; my knowledge came strictly from last year's The Trial of the Chicago 7, another movie about a politically charged conflict between the government and those oppressed by it that took place in the latter half of the 1960s. But where Chicago 7 was bogged down by Aaron Sorkin's more sentimental writing, Judas and the Black Messiah has a gripping sense of motion, an urgency, an anger, a defiant spirit, that makes it rise above an okay rat-in-the-ranks drama and wrestle with ideas and themes about revolution, about how to bring about the change that is very necessary in society.

The script doesn't simply pay lip-service to the Black Panthers' ideology; in the suave, charming, effortlessly charismatic yet quietly furious hands of Daniel Kaluuya, the character of Fred Hampton springs to life, and we immediately become invested in his struggle. But while his performance is certainly what will attract the most praise, Lakeith Stanfield - the titular Judas - delivers a brutal, agonizing performance as a man undergoing a tremendous internal conflict. Jesse Plemons is equally competent: as an FBI agent that is initially somewhat sympathetic to the cause, despite being tasked with getting Hampton off the streets, any misgivings he might have had regarding where his allegiances truly lie are immediately cleared away by the cold indifference of his superiors at FBI.

Shaka King also chooses to shoot some of the more intense, violent scenes with a visceral, unflinching eye, removing all the score from the scene and forcing us to see the brutality of the events first-hand.

Overall, Judas and the Black Messiah is a brilliantly tense, well written movie with some terrific performances and timely themes. Definitely recommended!

Aaryan liked this review