Based on true-life events, Judas and the Black Messiah is the story of how William O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) on the behest of the CIA infiltrates the Illinois branch of the Black Panther Party to get information on Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).
SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is an immense triumph, thanks to exceptional performances from Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Standfield.
Helmed by a relatively unknown director, the movie was produced by Ryan Coogler (BLACK PANTHER), who saw something in the story worth telling. In the end, King's interpretation is a phenomenal masterpiece that is thought-provoking and insightful.
Set in the late 1960s, the movie sees petty car thief Bill O'Neal (LaKeith) make a deal with the FBI in exchange for his criminal records being expunged.
The feds want him to get close to Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), the chairman of the Black Panther Party in Chicago. O'Neal infiltrates the party and eventually becomes Hampton's driver, gaining his trust while relaying vital information back to the FBI.
O'Neal struggles with his conscience over his dirty deeds while Hampton's influence continues to grow. As the cases of brutality against the blacks continue to rise, the feds put more pressure on O'Neal, knowing that taking Hampton (and the Black Panthers) down depends on him being able to deliver the final crushing blow from within.
Frankly, I didn't know what to expect after seeing the trailer. Coogler's involvement gave me little assurance that seeing this film wouldn't be a total waste of time. In the end, I was blown away.
First off, I tip my heart to the acting talent that is Daniel Kaluuya. The man is a sheer force of nature! He impressed me in GET OUT and QUEEN & SLIM. Here, he shows that he isn't just acting the part of Fred Hampton. He IS Fred Hampton. The passion his character exudes, dedication, and selflessness are well depicted with his astonishing acting. In my opinion, he deserves an award for it.
LaKeith Standfield also delivers (I expected nothing less) with a realistic portrayal of his two-faced character and the inner battles he fights. His shifty eyes give you a peek into an individual who is hiding something. He is the darkness to Kaluuya's light, the Judas to one seen by many as the black messiah.
The music is another element that helps in setting the mood; poignant and apt, it is well utilized, making for a perfect ensemble. The supporting actors also play their roles well as no one seems out of place or underused.
In the end, I must commend Skaka King for making a masterpiece. In an era where there is still racial segregation and inequality, JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is a look into the troubled past of a people who have suffered so much due to no fault of theirs.
Despite the injustice continually meted out to them, the never-ending fight continues. Why? Because in the words of the great man himself, 'You can kill the revolutionary, but you can't kill the revolution!'