Telling the story of an undercover informant in the Black Panthers during the 60s and 70s, Judas and the Black Messiah delivers action and drama that can’t help but captivate the viewer. It delivers award-worthy performances and doesn’t just call out the failing of white people and the U.S. Government: it also points out that the Black Panthers were far from perfect. The film shows how both sides played roles in the actions and reactions of the other.
Based on a true story, the film takes an in-depth look at life as an African American person during the civil rights movement of the 60s and 70s. It established credibility by showing an interview with the man who lived life as a Black Panther and an informant for the FBI, William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield). Forced to choose between a minimum of five years in federal prison or becoming an informant, O’Neal choses to become an informant and infiltrate the Chicago branch of the Black Panther Party led by Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).
The film shows the good works of Hampton prior to going to prison. Initially, he was an advocate for peaceful protest, inspiring change through food kitchens and educational programs and church sermons uniting different peoples. There is a scene in the movie where he walks into a meeting of white people and there is a confederate flag on the wall. Hampton talks with them about the struggles of his black ancestors because of that flag and accepts their point that they were not responsible for slavery, or even owned slaves as many were too poor to own slaves at all. Furthering his argument that it isn’t white vs. black, it’s the rich vs. the poor and unties both as well as Latino in the process.
Seeing this, J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) demands Hampton be locked up for something, “ANYTHING!”, sending him to jail for years on trumped up charges just to get him off the street and stop him from uniting people. With Hampton gone, more radical members of the Black Panthers begin to kill cops in retaliation for cops killing African American people in their community. When Hampton returns from jail, he is much more radical than before.
Eventually, Hoover demands that Hamilton be taken out. O’Neal’s handler forces him to play a role in the assassination by drugging him and making him pass out. When the FBI raids his home, according to the movie, they fire 99 shots as opposed to the Black Panthers’s one shot.
This film come at a time of incredible racial tension in the United States with the murders of Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. Now more than ever, we as Americans must come together and overcome the challenges we face.
I give the film 8/10 Lanterns.