Judas and the Black Messiah is the biopic on the life of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) when he was the Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, leading to his unfortunate demise by the hands of FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield). The film is set in Chicago during the late 60s after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Before O’Neal met Hampton and became a Black Panther member, he was a car thief. One night O’Neal gets caught stealing a car and is given a deal by FBI Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) to infiltrate the Black Panther Party led by Fred Hampton, or go to jail. O’Neal takes the deal and becomes a close member of Hampton’s inner circle while also getting paid to pass along information to Agent Mitchell. Tensions between the FBI and Hampton continue to rise from the conception of the “Rainbow Coalition”, Hampton’s arrest, and gun fights with the police, which force O’Neal’s hand to assist Agent Mitchell and the FBI in taking down Hampton and the Black Panther Party for good.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a thought-provoking film that paints a picture of what society was like at a particular point in history. It also shows how racial tensions between African Americans and old laws led to violent ends. The acting is fantastic, especially from the two main actors, Daniel Kaluuva and LaKeith Stanfield. Kaluuva displays in his performance how influential, understanding, and furious Hampton was and how he was the heart of the Black Panther Party in Chicago. Stanfield gives a terrific performance as O’Neal who is constantly conflicted with how his relationship with the Black Panther Party grows and how, in the end, he feels guilty for having betrayed his brothers and sisters. O’Neal is a well-developed character, put in the situation because he feels that he has no choice and is persistently afraid for his life. Not only because of the police, but because his fellow Black Panthers would torture and kill him if they ever found out he was a snitch.
The story is fantastic in demonstrating how the Black Panther Party is known for their brute force and military tactics, while also supplying the community with a medical clinic, protection, and food for the children. The story also exhibits how the FBI felt threatened by the Black Panther Party and considered them a terrorist group because of the violent overtones and chants that were commonly said at the Black Panther Rallies. The film does a great job at showing not only the many struggles and losses that Black Panther members faced, but also how violent and gritty it could get with police officers ferociously beating up unarmed African Americans to Black Panther members getting into shootouts with the police.
The weakness of the film is that the secondary characters are forgettable, making it hard to follow when the film focuses on them to show a certain moment of brutality or struggle. It’s hard to care about a secondary character’s struggle when the audiences can’t even remember their name.
Judas and the Black Messiah gets