Over the past couple of years, very few movies have impacted me like Judas and the Black Messiah. From the electrifying opening credits to its tragic conclusion, Shaka King’s new directorial masterpiece hit me like a ton of bricks. Debuting on the heels of the first anniversary of the brutal assassination of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in the hands of police officers, Judas and the Black Messiah is a clear reminder that little has changed in the United States when it comes to civil rights.
Set in the late 1960s, Judas and the Black Messiah recounts the betrayal and subsequent murder of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), a freedom fighter and chairman of the Black Panther Party chapter in Chicago, Illinois. When a criminal named William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) agrees to infiltrate the organization in exchange of having felony chargers being dropped, Hampton becomes the victim of an elaborated plan by the FBI to take him down.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a superb cinematic experience. Viewers should expect to be ripped from their reality and thrown into a moment in history marked by the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., protests, violence and the creation of the Rainbow Coalition – a progressive racial alliance founded by Hampton himself, to fight poverty and police brutality. Such time travel being a testament to the great work of cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, and production-designer Sam Lisenco.
The acting is on point, and both Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield lose themselves in their roles. I love to watch them reunited on screen, four years after their outstanding performance in Get Out, by director Jordan Peele. When Kaluuya delivers his lines, it makes almost impossible not to feel like you, too, want to join the revolution. But it is Lakeith Stanfield who shines, his performance excruciatingly making you question if the burden of betraying his brothers and sister eventually played a part on O’Neal’s decision to end his own life in the winter of 1990.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a masterpiece like no other, the kind of movie that will stand the test of time and become a clear point of reference in our conversation about police brutality and civil rights. With the award season already underway, it remains to be seen if Shaka King will get the love and recognition he deserves, or have his name added to the always-growing list of Black talent being shut out from big nominations.
An experience worth of your time and money, Judas and the Black Messiah debuts HBOMax on February 12th, 2021.
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