It’s a late night tonight, so forgive me if today’s post is on the short side. We’re going live with large project at my day job next Monday, so I’m slammed with work as I attempt to get things done before our deadline. That’s left me working late and having to strain to sneak in movie watching and writing.
Judas and the Black Messiah (2021, Dir. Shaka King)
So far this month, I’ve already watch two films about Malcolm X, so another film about the Black Panthers was well in my wheelhouse, and the new film by Shaka King may well be the best of the bunch. Instead of focusing on Malcolm, Judas and the Black Messiah turns its attention to Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) one of the leaders who took charge of a branch of the Black Panthers in X’s stead. Hampton’s legacy is told not through the eyes of the man himself but rather from a confidant and FBI informant Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield).
While Kingsley Ben-Adir and Denzel Washington portrayed Malcolm as a man who exudes a well-honed charismatic mystic in their respective films, One Night in Miami and Malcom X, Kaluuya gets to show the other side of an activist leader. Fred Hampton was incredibly young, no older than 21 throughout the film, but filled with passion. This combination leads to a sloppier but arguably more dangerous character. Kaluuya understands that he’s playing someone performing far out of his depths, but arrogant enough to not see that. Likewise, Stanfield plays O’Neal as someone too young to really grasp the sleaze of informing on a movement. He just want’s to deliver agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons in a great supporting role) enough dirt to avoid prison while not risking any danger. Great performances throughout mix with an excellent screenplay by Will Berson and Shaka King as well as King’s direction result in a wonderful feature.