Entertainment » Movies

Review: 'Judas And The Black Messiah' Contextualizes the Role of a Revolutionary

by Michael  Cox
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 4, 2021
Review: 'Judas And The Black Messiah' Contextualizes the Role of a Revolutionary

It's time to retell the story, to look back on all the things you thought you knew about your country and reexamine them with a more critical eye. It's absurd, and certainly hypocritical, that we are willing to exalt one group of revolutionaries - call them founding fathers - and then demonize so many others.

"Judas and the Black Messiah" tells an important story that not enough people know about: How multiple government organizations in this country teamed together to not only spread fear and crush the spirits of its people, but censor free speech, inhibit justice, and actually assassinate the American citizens that opposed them. It's time to retell history. And it's time to reexamine the power we give to a government that is able to do these things right under our noses.

The film (which was nominated for and won multiple awards, including two Oscars) tells the story of the assassination of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton at the hands of state and federal government, and the role in this injustice that one particular undercover agent played.

It's the late 1960s, and the charismatic influence of the civil rights leader Fred Hampton is growing in Chicago. Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya in an Oscar-winning performance) unites multiple groups of society, different ethnicities and gang allegiances, to fight the oppression of the powers that be. He creates a Free Breakfast for Children program and eventually helps to create the multiracial Rainbow Coalition. But his leadership skills and revolutionary messages terrify the Chicago Police Department and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Here is a Black man that will not be obligingly trod upon - so they look for ways to stop him.

After stealing a vehicle, petty criminal William O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) is picked up and threatened with serious jail time by FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons). Or, he can leave a free man and even earn a nice little stipend. All he must do is infiltrate the Black Panther Party as an undercover agent.

O'Neal takes the money and lives without qualm for some time, tucked between a capitalist dream and a communist manifesto. But at some point, one or the other of these ideals must break him.

Though Kaluuya won the Academy Award, all of the performances in this film are spellbinding, and the action is compelling, especially in the beginning as we are drawn into O'Neal's hypocrisy and marvel at the detestable corruption of the federal government. Problematic story issues come later in the script, as O'Neal's position as main character gets murky.

This is definitely a moment in history to research and understand better. Two bonus features help with this.


"Judas and the Black Messiah" debuts on Blu-ray May 3.

Comments on Facebook