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Moral of the Movie - Review

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

Academy Awards Special Edition

Drama/Historical, Directed by Shaka King | Rating: Memorable One-Night Stand | Published: Sept. 2, 2022, 12:12 p.m.


There is a longstanding history of contention between black communities and “officers of the law”. This film provides a specific case study of this history through the story of Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton (Black Messiah) and his double-agent security chief Bill O’Neal (Judas). Not only does the film show how officials like J. Edgar Hoover within the FBI and local law enforcement abused their power to oppress black communities but it also shows how black people were forcefully pitted against one other. In the end, the film provides further historical context of the racial injustices that we unfortunately still see in interactions between black people and law enforcement nowadays.


For any fans of dramas that are based on true events and historical figures, this movie will be equally as enlightening as it is thrilling. The film is a sort of mix between The Departed (2006) and Malcolm X (1992), so you should definitely watch this film if that combination intrigues you.


In light of the recent events over the past two years alone, we have seen far too many black people lose their lives to officers of law enforcement. “A badge is scarier than a gun.” Today, that line rings truer than ever as black communities continue to be persecuted by police officers with little progress being made since the events of this film. Authorities and law enforcement are seen as hostile towards black people rather than as the resources for for protecting and serving ALL people as they are originally meant to. That hasn’t changed since Fred Hampton’s murder, which is heartbreakingly similar to the descriptions of Breonna Taylor’s murder last year. At such a young age, Fred Hampton was wise beyond his years and an incredibly effective orator. I was not aware of Hampton’s role in history until I saw Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) and now this film. His legacy is one that I unfortunately missed in history class growing up, but I am hopeful that Hampton will finally get the recognition he deserves due to all of the attention that this film has garnered as a Best Picture nominee. “War is politics with bloodshed. Politics is war without bloodshed.” Politics nowadays has too much blood on its hands as much as it did in Fred Hampton’s days and it is devastating to see so much contemporary relevance in a film about the racial injustices that were faced over several decades ago. In the end, the film has very powerful and timely commentary about relations between law enforcement and black communities. Now, I wouldn’t be able to finish this review properly without discussing the incredible performances by Daniel Kaluuya as Hampton and Lakeith Stanfield as O’Neal. Surprisingly, both earned the Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for their respective roles in this movie. While it can be argued both ways, I am of the opinion that Lakeith Stanfield is the film’s protagonist as we see his arc from thief to traitor and see most of the film through his perspective. Yet, Kaluuya’s Hampton absolutely takes over every scene that he’s in. From Kaluuya’s visceral speeches to Stanfield’s subtle rawness in the way that he demonstrates O’Neal’s inner conflict, the film is full of ingredients that make up for enthralling acting. It also bears worth mentioning that the film is mostly an ensemble piece with Jesse Plemons and Martin Sheen doing just as well in portraying the oppositional despicable characters. Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Song. The writing is phenomenal as it feels so real and most authentic through the poetry and Hampton’s speeches while the cinematography adds a cinematic yet gritty aesthetic that grounds everything we see in the film. Overall, Judas and the Black Messiah is a devastatingly powerful film that tackles a lot of the same subject matter as fellow Best Picture nominee Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) but does so in an entirely different manner that focuses on the individualized struggle of revolutionaries like Fred Hampton.

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