Deprived of theatrical release, Judas and The Black Messiah is released exclusively on Canal +. A five-time Oscar nominee, the film has already won Daniel Kaluuya the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.
What is it about ?
Focus on the rise of Fred Hampton, African-American political activist, member of the Black Panther Party in Illinois, who died in December 1969 at the age of twenty-one.
Who is it with?
Judas and The Black Messiah brings together a very nice cast, starting with the two main actors. In the role of Judas: Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Knives Out) plays William O’Neal, a petty thief who goes through an FBI agent to steal cars. Choped by the police, he is drafted by the FBI to become an informant within the movement of the Black Panthers.
In the role of Black Messiah: Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) slips into the shoes of Fred Hampton, president of the Illinois branch of the Black Panther Party. This activist, known for his charisma and his oratory talent, was assassinated in his sleep by the FBI, then led by J. Edgar Hoover.
Around them, we find actors no less talented like Dominique Fishback in the role of Deborah, the companion of Fred Hampton; and Jesse Plemons in that of the FBI agent recruiting Bill O’Neal.
Well worth a look ?
If only for its subject and the fact that it is an “Oscar contender”, Judas and The Black Messiah obviously deserves attention. Shaka King’s direction draws inspiration from different genres, from Scorsese to Blaxploitation, and gives the film a real touch. Plastically beautiful and ambitious, this two-hour feature film will also look timidly on the side of Spike Lee and his Malcolm X.
But it is above all the performances of Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya that permeate the retina. As Bill O’Neal, Stanfield is no ordinary traitor. Presented as a coward, he gives more and more scope to his character – apolitical at first – when he begins to be galvanized by the speeches of Hampton, the man to be defeated in the eyes of the FBI. And when the guilt starts to eat him up from the inside.
As for Daniel Kaluuya, he only confirms his talent by emphasizing the power of his playing. Even if the two actors are a little too old to play O’Neal and Hampton – who were 20 and 21 years old respectively at the moment of the facts – they have the density and the finesse to make us accept this small step aside.
A somewhat forgotten figure of the Black Panthers, Fred Hampton nevertheless emerges as a natural leader. Admirer of Che Guevara, defender of socialism against capitalism and unifier of struggles when he succeeded in rallying other oppressed minorities – including white ones – we quickly understand that he represented everything that J. Edgar Hoover, played by a Martin Sheen unrecognizable, scorned.
Always according to the representation that Shaka King makes, he is a man who lives in harmony with his principles. He comes to deplore that the movement exists essentially only around his person. But the character also has his limits – advocating armed struggle and inciting hatred towards the police – which the film shows surreptitiously, too eager to make a martyr of him.
On the night from Sunday to Monday, Judas and The Black Messiah is measured against two major films that also deal with politics and racism: The Chicago Seven by Aaron Sorkin and Billie Holiday, a state affair by Lee Daniels .