During Black History Month, we are reminded of the many Black activists and leaders who changed American society. These historical figures have paved the way for equal rights for African Americans. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, but many African Americans still felt the weight of racism in America.
The Black Panthers were one of those groups who tried to fight against racism by supporting their own communities. Fred Hampton was one of the leaders who did that, and he also brought White, Black and Hispanic Americans together under the issue of class.
Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya, was a young and amazing public speaker, and his existence threatened the FBI. When Bill O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) was arrested for theft and impersonating a federal officer, Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) used this opportunity to bring Hampton down. He made O’Neal become an FBI informant for exchange of immunity.
The film mainly focuses on O’Neal as he became an informant and climbed the ranks in Hampton’s circle. He gained their trust while secretly working for the FBI. This perspective is quite interesting as we see inside the FBI during this time.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” touches a bit on Hampton’s beliefs and speeches. It also mentions the work that the Black Panthers has done when it came to helping their community like giving free breakfast to children, but it also focuses on the corruption of the FBI.
We see how the FBI treated Black leaders who were calling for revolution both in race and class. J. Edgar Hoover can be seen as the villain of this story even though O’Neal was part of the tragic ending. Hoover used murder and intimidation to bring down revolutionary leaders.
The movie was fantastic, and the casting was perfect. Kaluuya and Stanfield are a great duo and had chemistry on screen. We can see Hampton’s growing trust for O’Neal, which causes tense moments. These moments are created by the fact that we know who O’Neal is, but Hampton does not.
This has to be Stanfield’s best performance, and his talent just shows how he is going to stay in Hollywood for a long time. Also, Kaluuya’s performance as Hampton is astounding and he was able to match Hampton’s tone and mannerisms. These two actors keep proving that they are here to stay.
Overall, this is a quality film worth watching if you already know the history of Hampton and the Black Panthers. It is also an introduction for those who want to learn more about that history. It’s a tragic story, but it is still insightful about the state of America after the Civil Rights Act.