His portrayal of activist Fred Hampton is sure to be among his most memorable roles
With a title like “Judas and The Black Messiah,” the critically acclaimed film sounds as if it’s one of biblical proportions. However, the picture manages to strive towards both grounded and complex, rather than biblical.
The film, which is based on a true story, follows the relationship between Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party Fred Hampton and FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield). As the civil rights movement gains steam through the late 1960s, the FBI takes notice of Hampton and attempts to infiltrate the organizations with O’Neal.
O’Neal dives deeper and deeper into the organization, forcing the viewer to question whether they’re supposed to love or despise the character. Both LaKeith Stanfield, as well as the magnificent script, manage to ride a fine line between unlikable rat and believer of the Panthers.
As Stanfield’s character becomes increasingly challenge to pin down, Kaluuya’s portrayal of Fred Hampton nails why so many both loved and feared the activist. Writer/director Shaka King grounds the characters in a sense of humanity, rather than “good” and “bad.”
While Stanfield and Kaluuya steal the majority of the spotlight, the supporting characters throw their hat into the ring for some of the film’s most memorable moments. Jesse Plemons’ Roy Mitchell and Martin Sheen’s J. Edgar Hoover each lean into a more sincere, compelling side of their career while rising comic Lil Rel Howery demands the audience’s attention for the short time he’s onscreen.
When the film finally draws to a close, it’s both shocking and not. The film may not show the most gruesome most of the true story’s conclusion, but that doesn’t make it any less emotionally compelling. Above all, however, it’s accurate. Hampton’s son and mother are both credited as consultants throughout the creation of this film, staying true to real-life through the portrayals depicted.
As “Judas and The Black Messiah” is released in such a time of turmoil throughout our nation, it couldn’t be seen at a better time than now. Despite being 50 years removed from the events that transpire, the lessons and takeaways remain equally important to the younger generations of today.