Judas and the Black Messiah film review (2021)

Daniel Kaluuya is electric as Fred Hampton in this film which talks about a critical time in history. Lakeith Stanfield also continues to show he’s one of the best actors performing today. This has Oscar wins written all over it.

Since the trailer, I’ve been looking forward to this one. I believe Kaluuya has an extremely good chance of winning the Best Actor Oscar he arguably should’ve won for his role in Get Out. I mean, Gary Oldman was phenomenal as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Nonetheless, it doesn’t necessarily mean Kaluuya wasn’t deserving of the award, though. As mentioned though, he should be a favorite heading into this year’s Academy Awards. Other than his performance, I truly think Judas and the Black Messiah is simply well-made in a variety of aspects. Plus, he isn’t the only actor to look at for Oscar consideration.

Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of an FBI informant named William O’Neal (LaKeith Standfield), who’s offered a plea deal in exchange to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton, who leads the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party.

Immediately, you get introduced to O’Neal, who’s a somewhat complex individual. He gives off a variety of different vibes, especially before being offered the plea deal, including someone who doesn’t have a place in this world and is simply trying to get by. He even shows a bit more of this as he begins to infiltrate the Black Panther Party. However, as the movie goes on, you realize there’s more to it than that. Even though he is an informant, or in other words, a rat, there’s still a sense of loyalty and care coming out of him. During many parts of the film, you can just tell he’s at conflict with himself. Although he’s being compensated for what he’s doing, you get the idea he doesn’t want to be in the position he’s in. Stanfield does such an amazing job portraying all of these emotions and is incredibly convincing from start to finish.

Then there’s the main man himself, Daniel Kaluuya. He broke onto the scene with Get Out, but he’s gone on to prove he’s undoubtedly one of the best in the industry. He has been great in some recognizable box office hits, specifically Black Panther, but he truly shines in the low-budget, independent films, where I feel he’s given more freedom to work and bring these characters to life in the most accurate and genuine way possible. Hampton was a polarizing figure and there’s no doubt about it, and Kaluuya just oozes confidence and charisma while playing him. The most impactful scenes are the ones where he’s giving speeches to his supporters and other members aligning themselves with the movement. It’s evident Hampton knew the right things to say in order to get people on his side. I think Kaluuya understood this, and his performance only confirms it.

As a viewer, if you aren’t familiar with the history behind what this film is about, then you don’t really realize what the Black community experienced during that time. In many ways, I feel it’s still relevant today, which is why certain movements are always fighting for equality and their place in this world. You may not agree with some methods they take, but I believe most can agree some changes do need to be made in order to inch closer to a sense of equality for all. I loved seeing people of all races and backgrounds come together for a cause. At the end of the day, I believe it starts with a conversation amongst each other and if we would just talk about the problems we see in our society, the world would be a much better place. If anything, that’s what I took the most from this movie and why it’s so important.

I also feel it tells a pivotal story about loyalty. You always need to be careful about who you let in your circle at the end of the day. Putting myself in their shoes, they already feel betrayed by society, so just imagine someone pretending to care about the cause, only for them to gather intel and ultimately betray the movement. Then again, it wasn’t worth it, at least for the real O’Brien, and I think he realized it once he had to live with he did for the rest of his life.

Judas and the Black Messiah has very few problems if any. You see it for the subject matter, which is a big part of history, and you stay for the performances. It’s already one of the most well-acted films of the year and should get a ton of awards love soon enough.

Score: A

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