After getting some buzz at the Golden Globes a couple months ago, I decided to check out Judas and the Black Messiah, a historical drama directed by Shaka King. It was released on February 12th, 2021 and got some serious critical acclaim, along with a win at the Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor, and five nominations for the upcoming Oscars.
Judas and the Black Messiah tells the tragic yet inspiring story of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Black Panther Party in Chicago during the late 1960s. The plot revolves around Fred Hampton’s constant struggle to empower Chicago’s African American community, and the FBI’s plans to suppress Hampton and his movement. Fred Hampton is a powerful and inspiring figure, on a mission to unite minorities in a racially tense, post-MLK world. The story is told from the perspective of Bill O’Neil, who was a black FBI informant spying on Hampton as an “inside man” in the Black Panther community. This point of view makes the story much more unique and interesting since we viewers know something important that the protagonist (Fred Hampton) doesn’t know. However, I think that telling the story from O’Neil’s point of view shifts the focus away from Fred Hampton, who should be the main focus of the story. Despite that criticism, I think that this film is incredibly inspiring, and carries a message that is still extremely relevant to this day, especially after the Black Lives Matter protests this past summer.
One thing that stood out to me throughout this movie was it’s amazing score and soundtrack. I really enjoyed the opening scene of the film which featured a haunting horn instrumental that really set the mood. I also thought that Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt did a great job with the aesthetic and visual element of the film, as this film feels very cold and dark, exactly like how this type of drama should feel. Finally, I thought that Daniel Kaluuya who played Fred Hampton did a fine job in his role, but I wish they had casted a younger actor since Hampton himself was so young when he was killed. If they had casted a young actor, I think the movie would do more justice to how tragic these events were since the audience could see how young Hampton really was.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a great movie for anyone interested in African American culture, and their struggle throughout American history. I learned a lot about this era of American History, and I’m glad that I did since it really puts the recent events surrounding the BLM movement into perspective. Besides a few critiques, I thought that the story behind this movie was also quite good, and really kept me interested throughout most of the film.
[Image Credit: The Ringer]