BY NOAH SORIA, CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER
February was Black History Month, and it was celebrated in all aspects, especially in pop culture (film in particular). The best way to honor black history in America Judas and the Black Messiah first premiered on February 1, 2021 to kick off Black History Month. It was later released in the United States by Warner Bros. Pictures on February 12, simultaneously in theaters and digitally on HBO Max.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a biographical drama film that focuses on Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in Chicago during the late-1960s. As well as focusing on William O’Neal, who at the time was an informant working for the FBI. The time period this film focuses on is from 1966-1969. It was a time that Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party was incarcerated, and Hampton was the face of the party.
The film’s cast stars Daniel Kaluuya in the lead role portraying Fred Hampton. Lakeith Stanfied takes on the role of William O’Neal. The majority of the cast is made up of African-American actors, with a few exceptions that includes Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell, O’Neal’s FBI Special Agent handler, as well as Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI.
The Friday before the movie released on the 12th of February, the Judas and The Black Messiah: The Inspired Album via RCA Records. The 22-track compilation is constructed by some of the best R&B and Hip-Hop acts of the past, present, and even the future. It featured artists that are from Chicago (G Herbo, Polo G, and Lil Durk, among others), however a highlight was “What It Feels Like” by the late Nipsey Hussle and the accomplished JAY-Z. The overall concept of the soundtrack was to have each artist offer their take on Black liberation politics, which tied in with the movie perfectly.
The movie itself was well needed in today’s society, particularly in the African-American community. Despite the film being more focused on William O’Neal (Stanfield), Daniel Kaluuya’s portrayal of Fred Hampton was powerful, to say the least. So powerful it won Kaluuya the Golden Globes Award for Best Supporting Actor on February 28th.
The overall plot was well constructed, and for the most part was historically correct (except a few characters who were written in for this movie). Despite the movie being one of the best in the young 2021 year, the film itself isn’t perfect. The storyline should have emphasized that Fred Hampton was only 21 years young when he was assassinated. He accomplished so much at a remarkably young age, and some of the audience didn’t even know. The other problem was the assasination scene itself. Everyone with service can google what happened to Fred Hampton, it didn’t have to be so gruesome in the film (even though it was in real life). It should have taken an approach similar to what Spike Lee did in his 1992 film Malcom X, starring Denzel Washington. An approach that used symbolism, instead of actuality to get the fact across.
Overall, this is one of the best films of the year (so far). The soundtrack is second to none. Both Stanfield & Kaluuya embodied their characters for a performance that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Judas and The Black Messiah is out now on HBO Max, and is showing at an open movie theater near you.