‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ is an unapologetic and powerful look at Fred Hampton’s rise
to prominence in the late 1960s. And the man he trusted who would be his downfall, William "Bill" O’Neal. The movie doesn't use the standard "life of" biopic format, but instead the specific period of time approach. This speaks a lot to how much Hampton accomplished (becoming a Chairman, The Rainbow Coalition, etc) in such a short amount of time, and at such a young age.
'Judas' is told primarily from the Bill O'Neal character's point of view. LaKeith Stanfield is showing himself to be one of the more versatile actors of his generation. He portrays O’Neal as being confident, but at the same time with desperation and denial. LaKeith is so good with this, we almost feel sorry for O’Neal... Almost.
While Fred Hampton is technically the supporting character in this movie, Daniel Kaluuya’s performance makes him the star of the show. It would be a total shock if Kaluuya doesn’t pick up his 2nd Oscar nomination with this role. Every second he is on the screen, attention is commanded. People tend to forget that Kaluuya is British. His acting skill is flawless.
Director Shaka King’s style choices seem very inspired by the subject matter. Utilizing the handheld camera in a way that gives off a voyeuristic vibe throughout. Also throwing in numerous long takes to ramp up moments of suspense with great effect. King, along with Will Berson pen the screenplay with dialogue that is robust but not overbearing.
‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ is a remarkable movie. An equally important one also. Whether you possess expert knowledge on the subject matter, or you only casually know who Fred Hampton is. This movie will undoubtedly entertain you. And at the same time will be a painful reminder of how not much has changed in the last 50 years. The Struggle continues.
Rating: ★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★