Bill O'Neal infiltrates the Black Panther Party per FBI Agent Mitchell and J. Edgar Hoover. As Party Chairman Fred Hampton ascends, falling for a fellow revolutionary en route, a battle wages for O'Neal's soul.
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Fred Hampton, a young, charismatic activist, becomes Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party - putting him directly in the crosshairs of the government, the FBI, and the Chicago Police. But to destroy the revolution, the authorities are going to need a man on the inside.
Director Shaka King has described the initial idea for the film as "The Departed (2006) inside the world of COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program)." He thought it was a clever way to "sort of Trojan-horse a Fred Hampton biopic and introduce the world, you know, a great segment of the world who is unaware of who he was, and is highly unaware of the Panthers' politics and ideology." See more »
During the police raid on Black Panther headquarters the Chicago P.D. is depicted employing 1966 Ford full-size four-door hardtops. Police units at the time were universally sedans, which when Fords were from the "Custom" line. The Custom line did not include four-door hardtops. See more »
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Kaluuya and Stanfield are striking in this unflinching film
After seeing The Trial of the Chicago 7, I read about the people involved and came across Fred Hampton's story which really fascinated me. I believe Judas and the Black Messiah did it justice.
Judas and the Black Messiah follows Bill O'Neal, a man who becomes an FBI informant to gain inside information on the Deputy Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton.
After watching the first trailer, I got goosebumps. Even after repeat viewings of the trailer, I still got goosebumps. No trailer has made me feel like that before and so I was anticipating this film for a long time. This film was unflinching in its portrayal of its events and I loved every bit of it. It may be a disappointment to some as Fred Hampton isn't in the film as much as you would think but I thought showing this story through the perspective of O'Neal was a great choice. Bill O'Neal was an interesting person who did make choices that were questionable and I liked the conflict that built over time between his allegiance to the FBI and the Black Panther Party. Lakeith Stanfield gives one of his best performances here as O'Neal. There are so many layers and nuances in his performance to give an idea of what his character is like. Despite knowing the story, I was still stunned by some of the things O'Neal does and somehow Stanfield still manages to make him somewhat sympathetic by the end.
The main attraction here is Daniel Kaluuya who is mesmerising as Fred Hampton. He pulls off the accent brilliantly and adds so much charisma and power to the dialogue by Will Berson and Shaka King. A particular scene where he's speaking to a large group of people is made so powerful by the energy and confidence Kaluuya brings to each word that comes out of his mouth. I couldn't believe this was the same man from Get Out. This is the biggest chance for him to win a Best Supporting Actor award and I hope he does. Jesse Plemons is also amazing here. I'm so happy his career is flourishing. Dominique Fishback is also fantastic and brings a level of emotion to the film.
For a second feature, this is really impressive from Shaka King. I see a great amount of confidence in his direction and writing and I'm hoping to see more of him in the future. There are a couple of shootout scenes and its depiction of violence was hard-hitting and held a substantial amount of weight to it. The score is very unusual but at the same time I liked the way it was used in the film.
All in all, Judas and the Black Messiah is a powerful film. It brings to a light an important time in history and educates us on someone that wasn't that well known. With striking performances from Kaluuya and Stanfield, this is a film that should be watched.
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