A MESSIAH AND HIS BETRAYER
For the past decade, Hollywood has focused on narratives that are “based on a true story.” looking for viewers with real interest under a cinematic lens. While there have been a multitude of such efforts to seize biographies or uncover massive cover-ups, Tinseltown has seen an interest in investigating racial injustice in the United States, especially within the African American community, and capitalizing on key moments in the nation’s history to They advance feature films for inspiration. This meaningful discussion of cinematic endeavors has uncovered many notable moments when members of the African American community (both as collective bodies and prominent figures) and how to fight oppression and how their voices can be heard by a nation that is becoming radically racist Injustice on them by their skin color. Such memorable hits of this kind of storytelling caliber can be found in a wide variety of feature films like 2014 Selma, 2017 Detroit, 2018 BlacKkKlansmanand 2020 Mercy only just to name a few. Now Warner Bros. Pictures and director Shaka King present the latest film about racial injustice with the cinematic view of Fred Hampton, the representative of Black Panther Judas and the black messiah. Does the film find insight into this cinematic endeavor or is it a chaotic narrative that gets lost in its own story of injustice?
In 1968, young upstart Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) is a low-level crook who poses as an FBI agent to help steal cars from locals. He believes the law itself is more powerful than a man with a gun in Chicago. During such routine activity, O’Neal is blown up and prosecuted. Instead, however, he is offered the option to skip his jail term to become an undercover snitch for the office. He works for his liaison with FBI liaison officer Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) who has the opportunity to reach out to senior Black Panther officials in the EU area. This includes the high profile case of a radical leader named Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) whose ideals set the stage for the Black Panther movement in new and interesting ways. O’Neal is undercover as a panther and is exposed to the organization’s efforts to improve the black community. Fred is a motivated leader who wants to create new opportunities and strengthen his resolve against the government of the police. Loved by panther and poet Deborah Johnson (Dominque Fishback) and feared by law enforcement. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) was determined to silence his voice. Put pressure on O’Neal to find a way to eliminate this community “black messiah” and appease Roy as the informant gradually begins to understand the cruel reality of life in his situation … and what he must ultimately do to get out of it alive.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
It is no secret that the United States faces racial injustice on many fronts. As a nation, the US has unfortunately garnished a clash of racial idealism throughout the country’s long history. Subjugating African Americans to a wide range of lower classes exposed to the white race from slavery to the civil rights movement. Even in today’s world, racial oppression is still being fought in the United States. Fight for injustice and equality that is right to be. It is likely for this particular reason that Hollywood has begun to turn to real events of such racial injustice to fuel feature films with insights and thought-provoking resources behind such causes of characters and events that took place. Personally, the films I mentioned in my first paragraph above turn out to be the best examples as I liked them all from both an amateur film critic and someone who likes history and learns more about some unsung heroes who are in charge of change fought and the players who surround them…. both good and bad. All in all, I applaud the way Hollywood is taking the steps and actions to give voice, platform and cinematic light to these narratives of racial injustice. Trigger discussions and debates when we (as a nation) come together to understand the past and build for a better tomorrow. together.
That brings me back to talking Judas and the black messiah, a 2021 biographical drama set to explore the lives of Bill O’Neal and Fred Hampton. In truth, I didn’t hear much about this movie when it was first announced. I think I remembered hearing the name of the movie which I have to admit sounds pretty cool. With a name like Judas and the Black Messiah, of course, it’s clear (without knowing anything about the plot or the movie itself) that it was going to be some kind of betrayal. clearly referring to Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ who betrayed Christ. Of course, after seeing the movie’s movie trailer (I think I saw it a few months ago), the movie seems to have that nickname as a reference to Fred Hampton’s Black Panther party chairman and the story of how he was betrayed use. With a catch like that, I was definitely interested in seeing this particular project. With the film, which falls under the Warner Bros. Pictures subsidiary, Judas and the black messiah was released in mid-February 2021, with the film premiering on HBO Max and in theaters simultaneously. I tried my best to keep other movies updated and kept pushing my role back with the idea of seeing them on HBO Max soon. Then the awards season began and I saw actor Daniel Kaluuya win Best Supporting Actor at both the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards for his portrayal of Fred Hampton in the film. Soon I got a warning on HBO Max that Judas and the black messiah will start soon until March 14thth, 2021 as part of the deal Warner Bros. made with the streaming service. Since I felt that I should finally put the film in the foreground of my review, I decided to finally watch it Judas and the black messiah a few days before HBO Max started. What did I think of that? Well it was pretty good. Despite stumbling in some areas here and there, Judas and the black messiah is a clever look at one of the lesser-known figures of racial injustice, with a film that offers plenty of insight and political drama to keep the viewer’s attention and provide informative entertainment. It’s stalling in some areas, but it is indeed a feature film worth watching.
Judas and the black messiah Directed by Shaka King, whose earlier directorial work includes such projects as People on earth, High maintenance, and Shrill. Given his background on more short films and TV shows in his career, King is making this particular film his most ambitious project to date. a gripping narrative to the frame as well as skilled acting talents who are involved in the film. For this and quite surprisingly, King is up to the task and manages (for the most part) to make the film very appealing from start to finish. Personally, I didn’t know anything about Fred Hampton or Bill O’Neal and the roles they were playing at that particular point in the story (as seen in the film) and how intertwined their lives are. Perhaps that was why I was quite intrigued by the film; Finding the story of Fred Hampton and Bill O’Neal is quite compelling work, and almost something that is “tailored” for some kind of cinematic representation. Of course, this comes into play in the movie, and it seems that King’s trait depends on that notion; Approaching the source material with a sense of honesty and with the ability to grasp the audience by retreating into this world of revolutionary and crooked cops. For me, I was pretty intrigued and very curious to see how the movie would play out. One might think that with all of the historical bio-images and / or fictional dramas that have come out in recent years, there is nothing left to explore or investigate. Fortunately, King finds the informative scope of the narrative of the feature to be the main focus. Judas and the Black Messiah are said to be illuminating when it comes to shedding light on both Hampton’s char-mastic ways and O’Neal’s struggle and all the complexities between these two men. Whether you loved the film or hated it, you simply cannot deny that you (as a viewer) were informed (as a viewer) by King’s film about these two central characters, both the leader and the traitor.
As a director, King struggles a few times (more on that below), but where he gets his rhythm (where the feature comes out best) is within the moments of character dialogue. Approaching these sequences with great force and frenetic (as a filmmaker) with the backdrop of the film as the backdrop for the larger events that take place around them. Yes, while the movie’s big story is about the Black Panther movement and how the FBI (led by Hoover) sought to overthrow the organization’s leaders, including Hampton, King never loses sight of the two main characters in the film. They show both Hampton and O’Neal and the paths they choose and how the results ultimately affect each of their respective stories. Here is the movie at its best, with King Making Judas and the black messiah more of character-based drama and choosing how to direct the film to showcase lots of character-based moments rather than going head first into the big story. Plus, King seems to have the nuances of the film backing up those character-driven moments, including the written script dialogue, cinematography, and associated acting talent. In short, King’s direction for character dialogue moments rather than the grand spectacle of the narrative of the era is a welcome choice.
Furthermore, there is no doubt that the film is one of those “timely” releases that clings to what is happening in America today. Thus, the correlations between the two are actually tangible and one can easily see the comparison between the way African Americans express their concerns about racial injustice and equality. That being said, what King does with Judas and the Black Messiah is rather subtle, as the film doesn’t “hammer” all of the controversy between the two periods, especially not with dark and bloody violence. Oh yes, there is racial violence in the film, but it’s a little more neutral and not all of the “shock and awe” that some films have put out. What is the word i’m looking for? Oh yeah, King won’t let the film insist on itself and … that’s a good thing.
Regarding the technical presentation, Judas and the black messiah does a solid job of bringing this particular era to life within the feature. Much of the set decorations, production layout, and costume attire, as well as hair and makeup, are definitely well managed and represented in the film. Creating a very believable setting for the late 60’s / early 70’s era in the Chicago area. This also benefits from the authenticity of the feature film and gives credibility to King’s vision for the film. Feeling appropriate to the scenery and depictions of the film on all fronts … be it urban landscape, interiors, offices, and the various characters that populate. So the entire team on the film is “behind the scenes,” including Sam Lisenco (production design), Jeremey Woolsey (art direction), Rebecca Brown (set design), Charlese Antoinette Jones (costume design) and Kristan Sprague (film editing) for their efforts on the To make film and its special department shine. Even the cinematography of the film, done by Sean Bobbitt, includes some elegant sequences of camera use to capture some dynamic shots in some of the movie’s poignant moments. Finally, the film’s score, composed by Craig Harris and Mark Isham, makes a good musical composition. While some of the music feels a bit shaky at times, for the most part it didn’t bother me.
This is a tangible story from Fred Hampton and Bill O’Neal. Judas and the black messiah has a bit of a problem in a few areas where the film doesn’t seem to stand right. Perhaps the most notable criticism I had of the project was how the narrative cannot really “refine” what it really wants to explore. What I mean? Well, it’s a combination of King’s direction and the script for the film, which was written by King, as well as Will Berson and Keith Lucas. While I commend King’s directing for most of the film, I have to say that his style of capturing the narrative of the story is a bit confusing and shaky at the same time. This is evident in the first act of the film, which starts off pretty strong, but then loses about half of its steam. It’s hard to say how and when, but the second half of the film feels a little crooked. Perhaps this is more obvious because of the direction of the king Judas and the black messiah more of a character focus piece than a narrative. In fact, many of the background components of the story are pretty downplayed and not followed by a whole lot. As such, it seems that the film is written and directed more on Hampton and O’Neal (as characters) rather than what they achieve.
In fact, I was a little disappointed that the film didn’t delve deep enough into all of Hampton’s accomplishments and work. Yes, he’s very persuasive with his rhetoric, his words, and his bold stance of idealism for “the movement,” but King doesn’t offer much insight into what he actually did. Same goes with O’Neal and how he was involved in all of this … I just wish they’d add more sequences to see him play more of a role in the Black Panther party. Yes, if you know he is struggling with what he is doing, but why did they trust him and what role did he play for the group? So there are storylines in which there is almost a “jump in time” in which the film jumps and has the feeling that something is missing. This makes a large part of the film feel like a “shiny” surface in some areas. Barely scratches the surface of what really happened and this is a missed opportunity.
As a small point of criticism Judas and the black messiah comes out a bit stale in some parts due to the fact that there are many feature films (most based on a true story / event) depicting racial injustices against African Americans, of which it has almost become a subgenre his own by sheer accident. That’s not to say that the story doesn’t add any meaning or boost to either Hampton or O’Neal’s stories, but the film doesn’t have the enticing touch of a mix of grit and substance you’d find in a Spike Lee movie that BlacKkKlansman could achieve) . As mentioned earlier, King seems to be holding back a little, and I’m not talking about bloody violence, but there could be more grit in the film. Rendering Judas and the black messiah A bit overcooked in some areas.
Of course, the acting talent of the film helps to reinforce this criticism and (as I said above) to give Judas and the Black Messiah a very characterful play, especially with the two main characters. Of course, these roles are cast respectfully by the actors Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal. Of the two Kaluuya, known for his roles in Go out, Black Panther, and Queen & Slimhas slowly gained momentum in his acting career, which is probably why he was selected to play Fred Hampton in the film. Of course, this was probably the best decision made in this particular case because Kaluuya is quite a seasoned actor and knows how to sink his teeth into the characters he portrays. Such is the case with his portrayal of Fred Hampton; The creation of a very magnetic man whose charm and ideal are quite contagious for those who come in contact with people and stand up for his cause. Whatever you take out of this film, Kaluuya is phenomenal like Hampton and I’m sure the Hampton family who gave their blessing on this project would be proud of the actor’s accomplishment from Fred. All in all, Kaluuya is superb in the film, and he definitely deserves the nods and appreciation he won at the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Awards for portraying Fred Hampton in this dynamic role with such violent force and poise in the theater Has.
So did Stanfield, known for his roles in Selma, Sorry to bother you, and The photographydoes an equally impressive job in the role of O’Neal. Stanfield may not be as tangible in authority and word usage as Kaluuya’s Hampton, but he’s quite adept at dealing with a more subtle character. to find his portrayal of O’Neal as downplayed, but still quite effective. The duality of the two people he has to portray in the film, in which one is a radical comrade in the Black Panther Party and the other is a fighter caught between what is right and saving his own skin, is very promising. It is profound and compelling to see that Stanfield is able to convey these two very different traits in O’Neal. In short, Stanfield is solid in film and personally I think it’s one of his best roles to date; creating a great and unforgettable role in Judas and the black messiah.
Of the film’s supporting cast, the one who stands out the most is actor Jesse Plemons, who plays Roy Mitchell, the FBI agent for O’Neal. Plemons, best known for his roles in The Irishman, Game night, and Battleship, knows how through his behavior and body language (mostly in his facial expressions) he can convey the creepy feeling of being a bit nervous and uncomfortable in his character. So his portrayal of Mitchell is great and shows how nervous he is, what O’Neal is, or how his superiors may or may not react to what is happening. For me, he was one of the most memorable supporting characters in the movie. What costs a little less is Deborah Johnson, Hampton’s girlfriend and mother of his child. Played by actress Dominique Fishback (Project performance and The hate you give) the character in the movie seems a bit out of the way, and whenever he’s on screen the movie slows down and loses interest. That’s not to say that she’s irrelevant to the plot, as Deborah shows a different side to Hampton (a more intimate one), but compared to the struggles and triumphs that both Hampton and O’Neal have, her plot seems weak be. Still, Fishback delivers a strong performance. The last time I thought that actor Martin Sheen (wasteland and The left) did a great job playing J. Edgar Hoover. It took me a while to find out it was Sheen who was playing it as the voice sounded familiar but not the physical appearance. I also like the way King Hoover portrays in the film. Presenting the man as a hideous man who wants to pursue his personal agenda of rooting out the Black Panther organization, including Fred Hampton.
The rest of the cast, including actor Ashton Sanders (Trapped state and Moonlight) as Black Panther member Jimmy Palmer, actor Algee Smith (Detroit and Earth to the echo) as Black Panther member Jake Winters, actor Darrell Britt-Gibson (Barry and Keanu) as co-founders of the chapter of the Black Panther Party in Chicago Bobby Rush and Lil Rel Howery (Go out and Uncle Drew) as undercover FBI agent Wayne, actress Dominque Thorne (If Beale Street could talk) as Black Panther member Judy Harmon and Amari Cheatom (Django Unchained and The night catches us) are the leaders of the Crowns group Rod Collins dedicated to the small supporting actors of the film. Most of these characters are limited by their screen time and not much beyond their original setting, but the acting talents behind them are pretty good and help overcome that limitation.
A saga of messiah leaders and turncoat traitors in the heated battle of the Black Panther movement and racist government officials in the film Judas and the black messiah. Director Shaka King’s latest film delves into the lives of Fred Hampton and Bill O’Neal. Navigate a series of events that set the two men on a life and death collision course in turbulent situations. While the film stumbles in a few areas and can’t include everything King wants to project, the film still manages to overcome that criticism, with key points in King’s direction, great moments of character dialogue, a poignant story that is great about using the biblical terms (as seen in the title of the film), solid presentation, and great acting, especially from Kaluuya and Stanfield. I personally liked this movie. While I wish certain aspects were expanded and some of the film’s directing were different, I liked the film as I was quite informative of Fred Hampton’s involvement in the Black Panther as a promising leader who was betrayed by one of his own men (i.e. O’Neal). Plus, it’s amazing to see Kaluuya’s performance as a Hampton. So my recommendation for this film is a solid “recommendation” as it deserves a great deal of praise and appreciation for being received and for being (or rather is) quite enlightening for viewers to see an almost “unsung” hero of the film and to appreciate Black Panther movement and the man through its rise and fall. While some might grumble about the oversaturation of black stories in the last few years of cinematic storytelling, Judas and the Black Messiah ultimately lay down the idea that there are more narratives of lesser-known but impactful stories from African Americans fighting racial injustices to meet this need and deserve to be heard.
3.8 out of 5 (recommended)
Published on: February 12, 2021
Reviewed on: March 16, 2021
Judas and the black messiah lasts 126 minutes and is rated R for violence and persuasive language