Judas and the Black Messiah - Review
As part of Black History Month
by Amy Smith
Out of all the films that premiered at Sundance this year, the biggest name on the list was undeniably Judas and the Black Messiah (2021). Telling the story of Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya), Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, the film is told through the eyes of FBI informant William O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield). The perspective of this film is certainly interesting, as it is quite unconventional for a subject matter of this level. To have the story told through the eyes of an FBI informant, as he continually bounces between the Illinois Black Panther Party and the person he is reporting back to, could majorly backfire if not handled right. However, director Shaka King handles the subject matter respectfully and makes sure that the story takes the forefront, not the people behind it.
Courtesy of IndieWire
Something that I have been saying since the trailer dropped for Judas and the Black Messiah was that Daniel Kaluuya’s performance would be undeniable. As an actor that has done so much over the past years and yet still seems somewhat under the radar, it is impossible to ignore him here. Giving what is the best performance of this awards season, Kaluuya dominates the screen and takes every moment he can, making his message heard loud and clear.
There are numerous scenes throughout the film which may easily contend as some of the best, and it is still only February. One scene in particular, in which I will simply quote “We are the revolutionary”, is so well done that I simply wish I was able to experience that moment in a crowd. It is not only a perfect commentary on today’s situation and our current attitude, but something that will get any audience member going: it is exactly what we need to hear in this historical moment.
Judas and the Black Messiah is aggressive and it is not afraid to loudly shout its message.
In a year where we have had other films focusing on the Black Panther Party and the Black Lives Matter movement, a year devoted to change and progression, this one says out loud that not enough has been done.
All the issues brought up in this film from 50+ years ago still impact us today, and the Black Panther Party still lives on and continues to fight.
Not only does this film have some of the best performances and editing of the year, it also has one of the most compelling stories and it is something that just cannot be ignored in this day and age.