I saw “Judas and the Black Messiah” 3 times in the last 4 weeks…very unlike me. I just found it so compelling it slowed me to write this review. Didn’t know till the end that this film was based on the true, very short life (21 years) of Chairman Fred Hampton of the Chicago Black Panther party in fiery late 1960’s.
Growing up in New Haven, CT area, I was aware in my formative years of the very strong presence of Black Panther Party locally, but not really why except for the heavy news coverage.
Fast forward 50 years later to the Black Lives Matters movement and boiled over tension between law enforcement and citizens of color is clearly still a real issue.
This is a very well done movie…it whisks you briskly into a pretty brutal world of hate and distrust. Add in vital police informant and an absolutely captivating leader in Fred Hampton (played magnificently by Daniel Kaluyya) and you have the recipe for an elite film.
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The unlikely informant, played excellently by LaKeith Stanfield, one almost feels sorry for as he clearly has a good heart…he’s just a tough life. His FBI handler (played well by Jesse Plemons) just keeps giving him edgier and edgier assignments (which lead to death and destruction), but he just is boxed in with the endless threat of a long prison term hanging over him.
Martin Sheen, an acting legend, plays FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and good to see him on screen again.
To be intentionally targeted and eventually killed under direction from the head of the FBI, speaks to Hampton’s powerful leadership voice in the vein of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. A highly educated, articulate and inspirational leader far beyond his years. Chairman Hampton & this story really got inside me.