Friday Film Review-- "Judas And The Black Messiah"

Mar 23, 2021

 

So many stories making up the history in our country have remained untold or mistold for decades. Much can be learned from "Judas and the Black Messiah", Academy Award nominee for Best Picture. Here’s Barb Bretz with your Friday Film Review.

 

Writer/director Shaka King, introduced "Judas and the Black Messiah", to Sundance audiences warning the tragic story would be difficult to watch. He hoped it would bring viewers inspiration and worthwhile information. He was correct on all counts.

 

I had no clue who Fred Hampton was, maybe you don’t either. If you’ve seen the much talked about film "The Trial of the Chicago Seven", Fred was the guy sitting in the courtroom directly behind defendant Bobby Seale.

 

In the mid 60’s, Hampton, an American activist and revolutionary socialist, came to prominence in Chicago as the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. Most stories about Hampton, focus on the way he died whereas this film also shows how he lived; the battles he fought to improve his community, the obstacles in his path and, in some cases, who put them there.

 

We learn about William O'Neal, a teenage, petty thief recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the Panthers and act as an informant.

 

The story is intense and actors incredible. Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Hampton, may look familiar from the films "Get Out" and "Black Panther". He’s won a Golden Globe for the role and was just Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

 

LaKeith Stanfield, plays O'Neal, gives yet another solid performance and is also nominated in the Supporting Actor Category. Ryan Coogler produced this project. He was only 26 years old when he premiered his first feature film, "Fruitvale Station", here at Sundance 2013. His career took off like a rocket and his projects are always worth checking out.

 

Jesse Plemons, is FBI agent Roy Mitchell. He recruits O’Neal and isn’t above forcing him to commit illegal acts, especially since Mitchell, himself, is being threatened by his own boss, J. Edgar Hoover. A nod to Martin Sheen in his cameo as the contemptible FBI Director.

 

Much has been revealed about Hoover since his death and I'm sure there’s much we still don't know. It’s no stretch to think that many of the assassination dots of key Civil Rights figures might be connectable and lead right back to old J. Edgar.

 

"Judas and the Black Messiah" is rated R and runs 2 hours and 6 historic minutes. This is Barb Bretz with your Friday Film Review. Hope to see you at the movies, soon!