Judas and the Black Messiah: Review and Analysis – Info


Directed by Shaka King, “Judas and the Black Messiah” is a biographical drama that competes with political, racial, and personal strife. The film boasts an impressive stellar cast of Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Martin Sheen, and Jesse Plemons. The film has received critical success for its outstanding performances and themes which have become a reality in contemporary times. The film will simultaneously hit theaters and WB streaming site, HBO Max, on February 12, 2021.

This film tells the true story of the betrayal of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, at the hands of Bill O’Neal, a car thief who became an FBI informant. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) is a white supremacist, planning to kill Hampton, who is seen as a black Messiah like his predecessor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On the other hand, O’Neal is a compromised thief manipulated by his handler Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) to infiltrate the Black Panther Party and become Judas for Jesus Hampton.

Judas and Black Messiah's review

Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and Bill O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) at the BPP meeting.

Daniel Kaluuya gave a strong performance.

Daniel Kaluuya plays the real-life Fred Hampton, an American activist, and a revolutionary socialist. He was a leader of the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary, who quickly rose to fame and eventually became chairman of the Black Panther Party, Illinois, Chicago. Despite being young, he was able to unite several ethnically diverse gangs and cultural groups. Chicago, at the time, was full of powerful street gangs and many other prominent groups that went on to become civil rights organizations. Hampton manages to round up all of these diverse groups and gangs and get them to make non-aggression pacts. This alliance is called the “Pelangi Coalition”, due to its racially and culturally diverse constituencies. The standout achievement of this coalition is that Hampton is able to reduce internal conflict and influence people to take over with the rich and powerful. Daniel is brash with youthful, charismatic, and strong candor throughout the film.

Daniel plays Hampton with a commendable panic, delivering strong, tasted words that justify Hampton’s real-life gifted oratory skills. His speech after his return from prison is the highlight of the film. Crucial scenes raise the stakes of the story and set the stage for what is to come. An unwavering speech performance is sure to leave the audience dazzled and moved. Kaluuya’s cast as Fred Hampton has been noted to miss a bit as Fred Hampton was so young when he rose to the ranks of leading in the Black Panther Party and the national BPP movement. He was only 21 years old when he was raided by the FBI and killed in his bedroom. But Kaluuya’s extraordinary performance and devotion to his role masked this problem.

Movie star show

Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was the man behind the deaths of Fred Hampton and other influential black historical figures. He is played by the almost unrecognizable Martin Sheen, perfectly embodying the hateful and racist person of Hoover. Despite his relatively short screen time in the film, Hoover’s actions are integral to the plot. Hoover was determined, both in film and in real life, to ban the significant black movement in America. He plans to assassinate the “Black Messiah” Fred Hampton and seeks to portray the BPP as a revolutionary organization trying to overthrow the government. Martin Sheen did an extraordinary job as a notorious former FBI director, nailing the deep hatred and hatred he had for blacks and marginalized people.

Hoover directs and manipulates FBI agent Roy Mitchell – played by Jesse Plemons – to extract information about the BPP incriminating them as a militant group and a threat to the United States. Roy Mitchell plays an FBI agent who manipulates O’Neal and is manipulated by his direct superior and Hoover. He hires car thief Bill O’Neal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party in exchange for dropping his crime charges. Mitchell often brainwashed and persuaded O’Neal to break into the Black Panther ranks and get more intel.

Judas and Black Messiah's review

Bill O’Neal and FBI agent Roy Mitchell form a pact.

Dominique Fishback excelled in the role of Deborah Johnson, Hampton’s romantic interest, and was also an important party member. The romantic interaction between Hampton and Deborah shows the brilliant chemistry between the two. Although the film didn’t give Fishback significant screen time, he made the most of it and gave his best for the role. Deborah’s conflict over parenting and political contributions is best illustrated by Fishback.

A story about betrayal

Finally, Bill O’Neal – played by the talented Lakeith Stanfield – is the main cog in this film. Bill, who was only 17 when he became an FBI informant, faced the most internal conflict of all characters in the story. At the beginning of the story, he is a car thief, but very talented. He stole a car posing as an FBI agent. However, he is arrested and eventually offered by Roy Mitchell to avoid long-term prison terms, becoming an FBI informant. To avoid incarnation, he agrees to infiltrate the Black Panther Party, approach Hampton and the other leaders, and extract information about the group’s inner intrigue. O’Neal’s impersonation skills worked really well for him to break through and climb the ladder in the group.

He wore a revolutionary facade and soon became a driver and bodyguard for Hampton. He eventually became the party’s head of security as well. Being caught in the middle of a six-and-a-half year prison sentence and betraying his community had an emotional, psychological and moral impact on O’Neal. He refuses and reluctantly takes orders from Mitchell, who always coaxes him into infiltrating and spying on more and more parties. He became tired of living a double life and lies, however, continued with this facade because he didn’t have much choice when it came to his freedom. O’Neal manages to infiltrate and appreciate information about Hampton and party activities, which ultimately results in the 1969 FBI raid of the Hampton home and her death.

Playing the character Bill O’Neal was a challenging and mental task for Lakeith Stanfield. The actor mentioned in an interview with Level how he experienced mental stress after the role. He talks about how to play the character, and poisoning Kaluuya’s Hampton feels like he did it to the real Fred Hampton. Lakeith also went on to say how the show made him seek therapy and be aware of similar future roles. O’Neal’s character demonstrates the vulnerability of black people in a careral country and exploitation at the hands of strong elite and institutional racism.

Judas and the black Messiah

Bill O’Neal infiltrates BPP and earns Fred Hampton’s trust.

Critical Reception

This critically acclaimed film premiered at the Sundance film festival and garnered high acclaim for its shocking performances and direction. The film’s lead actors Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield put on an incredible show, immersing themselves into the roles. Daniel’s performance is not only believable but also a calculated and sincere portrayal of a young but influential Fred Hampton. Lakeith, on the other hand, also leaves no stone unturned. His performance was very challenging and made it difficult for the actor to feel sad. Lakeith must play a character who is full of internal conflicts due to choosing individual freedom or harming the community. Amid a power struggle against white supremacy and institutional racism, O’Neal’s story is the main focus of the film.

The film was expertly directed by Shaka King and also co-written by him with the Will Berson and the Lucas brothers. With award-winning Sean Bobbitt at the helm of cinematography and outstanding editing by Kristan Sprague, this film is exquisite to watch and justifies the period, era, and appearance of the film. The film comes at a time when the theme is more prevalent than ever before. The film also marks a shift in Hollywood in how issues related to racism and police brutality are highlighted by the big studios – Warner Bros. Pictures, in this case. A biographical film about the struggle against the institutionally discriminatory FBI, the story looks at racial and economic disparities in the US with a Maoist and Marxist-Leninist perspective. At its core, however, it is largely a tale of moral treason.

Judas and the Black Messiah opens to limited theaters in the US and is currently streaming on HBO Max.


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