By: Collin Frazier
Incredible performances, great writing, and important messages galore in this recently released film
We are always told in our school history classes that the reason we learn history is because it serves as a means to prevent things from happening. I am here to tell you that in order for that to be true, the whole story must be shown. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is an example of showing history that is not discussed in the classroom. The film examines the relationship, and eventual betrayal, between William O’Neal and Chicago Black Panther President Fred Hampton in the late 1960’s.The combination of its lead actors, the script, and its message of condemning racism makes this not only a good movie to watch, but how it is an important movie to watch today. Also, as I will be discussing the climax of the film, consider this your spoiler warning.
What stood out to me first and foremost were the dominating performances by Daniel Kaluuya as Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield as O’Neal. Stanfield served as a paranoid, unhinged mole within the Chicago Black Panther Party in 1969. His character was only was in it to make sure he would not have to serve jail time for the majority of the film. It wasn’t until the end that I began to sympathize with O’Neal. He finally began to understand the severity of his actions and how much of an impact he had on the Black Panther party.
However, for as good Stanfield was in the film, it was outshined by Kaluuya’s performance as Hampton. Whenever he was in the shot, he would give such thought provoking, intense speeches that it made you feel like you were attending a rally in the 1960’s. He was also the perfect foil to O’Neal. While O’Neal was always scared, fidgety, and quick-to react, Hampton was calm, collective, and punctual. This was Kaluuya’s statement to the Academy that he deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination. With the very few movies released this past year, I cannot think of anyone that will come close to Kaluuya’s domination on the screen.
Above all else in this film, what made this such an exceptional film is how, unfortunately, it shows that some things never change, and this is best seen in the climax of the film: the murder of Fred Hampton. After being sold out and poisoned by O’Neal to the FBI, dozens of FBI agents break into the apartment where Hampton and many other Black Panther members are in the middle of the night without any warrant. The agents proceeded to shoot and kill almost all of the members, with 49 bullets shot by the agents while the members shot only once. Yet, the survivors of the shooting were the ones charged with a crime. All I could think of was the murder of Breonna Taylor and the lack of charges pressed on the police that murdered her. I turned to my older brother and we both agreed: some things never change. If we really want history to not be repeated, we need to see stuff like this. That is why I am glad this movie came out, especially at the time of release.
With the Academy Awards extending the window for consideration into early this year, do not be surprised to see this film earn many nominations. The acting, the writing, the story, and even the cinematography were breathtaking. This is a film that everyone needs to see, as it shows why organizations like Black Lives Matter are important. My final rating for “Judas and the Black Messiah” is a 96/100.
Featured photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.