Judas and the Black Messiah
Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…labyrinthine, occasionally mind-boggling, truly shocking and even stunning.
For whatever reason, there have been quite a lot of recent films dealing with Sixties radicalism in general, and black militancy in particular. This one is by far the best. It never falters, whether as a powerful, gritty and affecting drama or an examination of some of the politics, machinations, ideas and events of the time. And it’s all true – shamefully so, as you’ll discover if you see it. Which you should.
The time setting is 1968 and ‘69, and the place is Chicago. The titular messiah is Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party and chairman of its Illinois chapter. While not physically imposing, he’s very charismatic, with a gift for inflammatory revolutionary oratory which features in some of the film’s more stirring scenes.
‘Judas’ on the other hand, is a slippery petty crook called Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), who is coerced into becoming an FBI informant, going undercover and befriending Hampton. What follows is labyrinthine, occasionally mind-boggling, truly shocking and even stunning.
Suffice to say that you will emerge – especially after seeing the real-life footage and updates at the end – with a measure of empathy for both protagonists. Not to mention, if you didn’t have it already, for the Panthers and their families. Not so much the FBI.
This is one of those relatively uncommon movies with a fine balance between style and substance. It has the look and feel of a classic tense Seventies thriller, without ever being distractingly mannered.
The violent scenes are real edge-of-the-seat stuff, and brilliantly choreographed. And, with dialogue like “The Panthers and the Klan are one and the same” and “Kill a few pigs , get a little satisfaction”, its script is often memorable too.
Very highly recommended.