Review: “Judas and the Black Messiah” is informative and devastating


Courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios

Brooklyn Joyner

Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah” was awesome. I did not expect anything, besides the fact that Daniel Kaluuya and LaKieth Stanfield were its leading stars. They have been killing the movie scene for the past few years, and I love it. Kaluuya plays Fred Hampton, the revolutionary chairman of the Black Panther Party, while Stanfield plays William O’Neal, a spy infiltrating the Black Panthers for the FBI.

The film was informative, devastating, interesting, and surprisingly comical. Throughout my years of education, I’ve rarely heard about Fred Hampton’s name or his monumental role in American history. He was always labeled as someone who was violently radical and dangerous.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” showed the true nature of Hampton and the Black Panthers. It showed how he met his partner Deborah Johnson, played by Dominique Fishback, as well as how they started a family. It also portrays a sense of community and love within the Black Panther Party.

The movie also sheds light on how the FBI murdered Hampton, which the FBI tried to cover up for many years. The way that Hampton died was extremely eerie and truly horrifying.

The main thought that popped into my mind during this movie was: What would I have done if I were William O’Neal?

Stanfield’s character starts out as a car thief who impersonates an FBI agent until he is caught by an actual FBI agent, played by Jesse Plemons. He is given two options: serve years of jail time or infiltrate the BPP by going to their meetings, building trust with the BPP members and getting information. In exchange for this information, O’Neal was getting lump sums of cash and fine dining.

So if you take a second, what would you have done if you were given these options? I assume that it’s hard trying to decide. Stanfield does an outstanding job portraying to the viewer the weight that he had to take. His constant anxiety and fear were so strong that it gravitates toward the viewer. For instance, O’Neal suffers from psychotic panic attacks and sweat-dripping nightmares throughout his mission. Knowing that he was taking part in the eventual death of Hampton, who was young and also on a mission with purpose, makes the audience feel a pang of second-hand guilt and devastation. It seems as though he could have stopped his eventual demise from happening.

The only complaint that I have about this film was that it mostly centers on the FBI’s part in Fred Hampton’s life, even though it is supposed to be a biopic about him. But in a way, it silences the Black voice. I feel as though I would consider this movie as a biopic of Fred Hampton if it was made from his perspective. For instance, I would have liked to hear what some of his inner thoughts and feelings would have been during certain situations in the movie.

In addition, “Judas and The Black Messiah” takes an interesting approach on how they tell Hampton’s story, but it does not tell enough details about him. I would have liked to know what his childhood was like. Who were his parents? What was his life like before the Black Panther Party and how did he get there? Other than this complaint, the movie was great. It definitely deserves a watch.

Click here to stream “Judas and the Black Messiah” before it leaves HBO Max on March 14.

Illustration by Ariel Landry
Illustration by Ariel Landry