“Judas and the Black Messiah” is a film that accomplished exactly what it sets out to do, portraying a powerful narrative that parallels the political and social unrest in our present day.
The film follows the true story of William “Wild Bill” O’Neal, portrayed by LaKeith Stanfield, as he infiltrates the Black Panther Party in the ’70s as an informant for the FBI, to spy on the Chairman Fred Hampton, portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya. During the film, you see the struggles that O’Neal has to go through to not raise suspicion of himself, while also having to please the FBI in their increasing demands.
Tension: The best aspect of this film is the tension, which is amplified by Stanfield’s performance. You really feel how he is caught in a tug of war by both the Black Panthers and the FBI, as he fears and agrees with both groups.
Script: The script does an excellent job of highlighting Hampton’s charisma, which captivated many. At one point, O’Neal said, “Fred can sell salt to a snail,” which is shown throughout the entire film. Though the dialogue exchanges between all the characters are good as well.
Ending: The ending of this film is powerful, with a written epilogue describing where our characters are at in the present day. It paints a picture of how these characters were affected by everything that happened to them.
Pacing: Instead of a steady film, it speeds up at some parts before slowing down at other portions. The film includes plot lines that are emphasized and seemingly important to the audience, but by the film’s end, don’t matter to the story’s conclusion, making it unclear as to why it was included to begin win.
Gray Area: This film plays a lot with the idea that O’Neal doesn’t know exactly which side he’s on. While this works as a positive for building tension in the film, at a certain point the audience still does not know, which is difficult considering it is important for the audience to at least have a grasp on William’s character.
Characters: There’s not a lot to say about this other than the film does not do a good job showcasing which characters are important and which ones are not. By the end, I was struggling to name a lot of them outside of the main three that the audience are shown.
Considering the film premiered during Black History Month, it makes for a smart watch for those interested in learning more about this complicated era in history as the African American community sought for social change and justice or for those who simply want to celebrate the month. It does a good job of showing the parallel between the 70’s and what is going on now, and while the film seems fairly generic, the ending surprises you enough to warrant a rewatch.
Rating: Meets Expectations