JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

★★★★

REVOLUTIONARY TRUE STORY OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY IN THE 1960s

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris dos Santos
18th February 2021

Public Enemy's song 'Say it Like it Really Is', used fantastically in the trailer for the 2013 'Selma', features the lyrics "This revolution goes on and on." Whether it's 1965, 1790, 1969 or 2021, this revolution is still going on and on. 'Judas and the Black Messiah' takes us back to the Black Panther Party in the 1960s as they fought for the rights of African American people and challenged police brutality - a fight that still goes on to this day.

Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya, 'Get Out', 'Widows') is the chairman of the Black Panther Party in Chicago. During the 1960s, William "Bill" O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield, 'Sorry to Bother You', 'Knives Out') is arrested for car theft, and offered the chance to become an informant for the FBI in exchange for jail time. Bill is assigned to infiltrate Fred Hampton and his chapter of the Black Panther Party.

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Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield are absolutely phenomenal in the film, both delivering career-defining performances. Both offer something different than we've seen from them in the past. My only issue with the casting is the real-life people are much younger, with Stanfield playing a 17-year-old and Kaluuya a 21-year-old. It's such a small nit-picky issue in this powerhouse of a film, but there are a few times where age was brought up and there was a disconnect, as these men are clearly in their late 20s/early 30s.

It's hard to talk about the film without bring up the Black Lives Matter movement, with some of the scenes - especially in the third act - reminiscent of the incidents we have seen over the past months and continue to now. The film serves as, sadly, yet another reminder that people of colour are still being discriminated against. 'Judas and the Black Messiah' isn't just a reminder of the oppression African Americans have faced, and its timing couldn't have been better as this story from the 1960s continues in the 21st century.

The scenes where Fred Hampton delivers his speeches really pack an emotional punch. With the sound design and cinematography, you feel like you're in the room and part of the revolution. It's electric to watch, featuring some of the most chilling scenes I've seen captured on film in a while.

The scenes where Fred Hampton delivers his speeches really pack an emotional punch. You feel like you're in the room and part of the revolution. It's electric to watch, featuring some of the most chilling scenes I've seen captured on film in a while.

Being Australian and unfamiliar with both Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party, it does take a while to catch up. For American audiences, it would run a little smoother, but that shouldn't deter you from seeing this masterpiece of a film both for its acting and timely message. While there are also a few issues with the timeframe of the film - especially when the characters are going in and out of jail - it gets a little confusing in terms of how long have they been away for - again, a very small nit-pick.

The film also has a fantastic "inspired by" album featuring songs by artists like Jay-Z, ASAP Rocky and Nas, and I highly recommend listening to that. It serves as a fantastic companion piece, and echoes 'The Hamilton Mixtape', Dr Dre's 'Compton', and the 'Black Panther' albums.

'Judas and the Black Messiah' (a bloody brilliant title that took a while for me to figure out) is a true powerhouse of a film - not just because it echoes the current climate and the Black Lives Matter movement, but for its standout performances from Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya and its fantastic direction from Shaka King.

Just because it's out of the news doesn't mean the struggle is over. Head to www.blacklivesmatter.com to continue the fight for freedom.

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