A close look at the film “Judas and the Black Messiah”

By Lerence Melton

Daniel Kaluuya, center, as Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” | (Glen Wilson/Warner Bros. Entertainment/TNS)

Trailblazer, phenomenal, and trendsetter. 

These are just a few words that describe the late Fred Hampton, and the recent film that gives you a glimpse of his affiliation with the Black Panther Party titled “Judas and the Black Messiah.” 

The film tells the story of how the FBI and its director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) infiltrate the Black Panther Party using street criminal turned FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield.) 

O’Neal quickly rises up the ranks of the organization and eventually becomes Hampton’s right-hand man. Not only does the film give you a glimpse of Hampton and his message, but also the inner thoughts of O’Neal and how his presence within the organization resulted in life changing history.

Director Shaka King does an amazing job showing how much of a powerful speaker Hampton was. Although King shows how many people from Hampton’s own community believed in his message, how his message caused violence, and how it rubbed many people the wrong way and landed him on the FBI watch list, he also presents a clear-cut view of Hampton the activist and family man. 

King strives to show who Hampton was behind closed doors and provided intimate moments with friends and family. For example, one scene shows a softer side to Hampton when he and his girlfriend discuss their future child together, which is a direct contrast to other scenes wherein a stern-faced Hampton is using explosive or vulgar language. 

Most importantly, one truly cannot tell the story of Hampton without discussing O’Neal. King does an amazing job of showing the growth of O’Neal from a petty thief and con artist, to probably the greatest FBI informant in history. 

The film demonstrates O’Neal’s selfishness and the internal battle he has with himself during his time being with Hampton and the Black Panther Party. 

In one scene, O’Neal has a dream of being caught and killed by the Black Panther Party for being a “snitch.” After quickly awakening, he seems frightened by the dream because he realizes how deep undercover he truly is.

From front to back: LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” | (Glen Wilson/Warner Bros. Pictures/TNS)

Throughout the film, the settings and colors used throughout the film are very dull and of darker shades. As the film progresses, its climax develops at a very rapid pace, which is symbolic of Hampton’s life being cut short at the age of 21.

This is not a feel-good movie to watch. Yet “Judas and The Black Messiah” is a film everyone should see, especially considering the intense racial conflicts evident in American society today. 

Although this movie might make you feel angry or unhappy, it could also turn you into a believer of what Hampton stood for and was against. 

Regardless of your reaction, I can guarantee that this movie will stir up some emotions within you, and if you feel the way I did by the ending of this film, then you will want to know more about how powerful this 21-year-old Chicago man really was. 

Contact Lerence Melton at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu 

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