Helmed by a relatively unknown director (Shaka King), the movie is produced by Ryan Coogler (Black Panther director), a filmmaker who saw something worth telling in the story. In the end, King's interpretation is a phenomenal masterpiece that is thought-provoking and insightful.
Set in the late 1960s, Judas and the Black Messiah sees a petty car thief Bill O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) make a deal with the FBI in exchange for his criminal records being expunged. The feds want him to get close to Fred Hampton (Daniel 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. He struggles with his conscience over his despicable deeds while Hampton's influence continues to grow.
As the cases of blacks resisting police brutality continue to rise, the feds put more pressure on O'Neal, knowing that taking Hampton and the Black Panther movement down depends on him being able to deliver the crushing blow from within.
Frankly, I didn't know what to expect after seeing the trailer. Coogler's involvement gave me little assistance that seeing the movie wouldn't be a total waste of time. In the end, I was blown away.
First off, I tip my hat to the acting talent that is Daniel Kaluuya. The man is a sheer force of nature! He impressed me in Get Out (2017) and earned my respect in Queen and Slim (2019). He goes beyond expectations here to deliver a career-defining role. He shows that he isn't just acting the part of Fred Hampton. Here, he IS Fred Hampton!
The passion Kaluuya's character exudes, coupled with the dedicated acting are apt in portraying the selflessness that is expected from a larger-than-life individual.
LaKeith Stanfield also delivers (I expected nothing less from him) with a realistic look at a man engaged in two-faced dealings. His inner struggles are shown in his expressions (particularly his shifty eyes). His eyes give the viewer a peek into the soul of someone who is hiding something. Stanfield's O'Neal is the darkness to Kaluuya's light, the Judas to the one seen by many as the black Messiah.
The music plays a vital role in the exposition of the plot as it helps to establish the different moods. It is poignant and well utilized, making for the perfect ensemble.
The supporting cast members also play their different roles well. No one seems out of place or underused as they all fit in well to the overall story.
In the end, a special commendation must go to Shaka King for making a masterpiece for the ages. 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 continuously meted out to them, the never-ending fight continues. Why? Because of the great Hampton, 'You can kill a revolutionary, but you can't kill a revolution!'