REVIEW: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

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Ever since he starred in Jordan Peele’s tremendous thriller, “Get Out,” Daniel Kaluuya has had one hell of an outstanding track record. Upon viewing this film, I can say with certainty that you can add this one to the mix, as this movie may feature his best performance yet.

Directed and written by somewhat of a newcomer, Shaka King, “Judas and the Black Messiah” sees Kaluuya reunite with producer Ryan Coogler (both worked together in Marvel’s “Black Panther”), as well as co-star Lakeith Stanfield (both starred in “Get Out”).

Set in the late 1960s in Chicago, this biopic tells the historical tale of when F.B.I. informants essentially force car thief Bill O’Neal (played by Stanfield) to infiltrate the Black Panther party. Their hope: to put an end to the rise of chairman Fred Hampton (played by Kaluuya) and continue to win the war against black prosperity led by F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover. 

This film … was difficult to digest, to say the least. After taking a moment to sit down and come to terms with what I witnessed, I came to this conclusion: King is on the rise to potentially becoming one of the best writers/directors working today.

This film is essential and needs to be seen by all. Throughout the 2 hour and 6 minute runtime, I was unsettled, disheartened, frustrated and above all, thoroughly disgusted at the horrifying and racially motivated actions from Hoover and the F.B.I. and police officers this film highlights.

Each scene that focused on the atrocities the Black Panther members had suffered were nail bitingly and emotionally intense. I, along with my mom (who accompanied me to the theater), were on edge for the majority of the film. And I assure my readers you will be, too. 

As I previously stated, Kaluuya is at his absolute best here. There were so many mesmerizing scenes where he was giving incredibly inspiring speeches to Black Panther crowds. At times it felt like he was talking directly to us (the audience), not just his fellow cast mates on screen. Telling us that no matter what happens, we cannot allow ourselves to be silenced.

Stanfield is also excellent here, and though the film sort of sidelines his role in favor of Kaluuya, Stanfield still does an amazing job of making you feel as unnerved, and sometimes even as tortured, as he was, whilst the F.B.I. used him as their pawn. 

Overall, this film is a must-see. This side of history seems to have been unjustly hidden from openly being shared as part of our American history, and that is unacceptable. To all my readers, please go and watch this film. This is a necessary viewing.

There are a few things I could nitpick, but I’m leaving the technical side out of this review. This film covers such an important, and brushed-aside, part of our history that everyone should witness.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is now playing in theatres everywhere, as well as streaming on HBO Max. And when you have the time (not if, when), please give it the watch that it deserves.

 

Jury Declares: A