George Clark’s review published on Letterboxd:
Shaka King's second directorial feature 'Judas and the Black Messiah' is the year's best film by a country mile. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and Ashton Sanders, the biographical story depicts the betrayal of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, at the hands of William O'Neal, an FBI informant.
Judas and the Black Messiah has come to shake up the 2021 awards season, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The perfect film for black history month! The story within is incredibly infuriating, not in the way King presents any of it, but in the harrowing details the story portrays with the manipulation of justice proving truly heart-breaking and the end text especially having a huge impact on me. Though sadness isn't what you'll most likely feel while watching this. Anger is. The betrayal in Judas and the Black Messiah extends far beyond the title character, making it an even greater tragedy. The shame that we now feel for what happened and the horrid behaviour of some previous generations is unforgivable, but now, 50 years on, people deserve to see a story that doesn't demonise or portray its protagonist as a hero, they deserve to see the truth, however shameful it may be. Making you angry, furious if not, that this happened, that this is true and for that, the film keeps you hooked, on edge waiting for the inevitable ending that's portrayed perfectly.
This is Daniel Kaluuya's Oscar-winning performance! He is absolutely phenomenal in the supporting role, depicting Fred Hampton, not as a martyr or a hero, but as a real person who lives and breathes to fight for his fundamental right to be treated equally. He inhabits the character perfectly, exuding the exact emotions one would expect from a person in his situation. However, it's LaKeith Stanfield's performance that doesn't get talked about enough. An actor playing a character who's essentially just another actor is something that many find difficult, yet Stanfield portrays the character with an incredible effect. We see much of the film through his eyes, showing us what he went through and how the FBI manipulated him into thinking the Black Panthers were evil. The film never truly demonises him, instead showing moments where he wants to take back his actions and escape his agreement with them whilst simultaneously betraying them at the same time. No one's portrayed 100% right or wrong and that, mixed with the incredible performances of Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield is what truly kept me hooked as it progressed.
Letting his talented cast lead the way, King has made a film centered on emotions and relationships while touching on the impactful true story that lays within. Although King's film may not accomplish everything it sets out to do over its two-hour runtime, it represents an important perspective of a time period whose essential injustices have gained renewed attention 50 years later. It's both meaningful and impactful to today's society and will hopefully bring more change to the world. Fred Hampton was 21 years old when he was murdered by the FBI. He shall not be forgotten.
2021 Releases Ranked
"I AM...A REVOLUTIONARY"- Fred Hampton.