Last month, Daniel Kaluuya won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Shaka King‘s historical drama ‘Judas and the Black Messiah‘. Based on the revolutionary leader of the Black Panther Party Fred Hampton, the movie explores how an FBI mole named William “Bill” O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the party and shares valuable intel with FBI Special Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) in return for having charges of theft dropped against him. Bill soon becomes an important member of the Black Panthers, getting close to Fred and even being inspired by him enough to quit his role as an informant. But Mitchell does not let him go as easily and Bill becomes instrumental in the FBI raid at Hampton’s house that kills the Black Panther Chairman.
Witness a much-needed lesson in black history
The fight for civil rights in the US is a long and old one. This movie takes us back to the 1960s, giving us a glimpse of the activities of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, led by Fred Hampton. We learn how black people rallied together in the struggle for justice and equal rights, forming alliances even with rival gangs and militia groups with whom they had one common enemy – the white police. We also learn about Fred Hampton, a revolutionary leader who was just 21 years of age when he lost his life and the FBI’s role behind the murder.
Daniel Kaluuya’s delivers an award-worthy performance
Kaluuya essays the role of the poignant revolutionary who may not be the main focus of the story and yet, the film cannot do without him. Hampton was known for his political speeches that were inspiring in nature and the Golden Globe winner does complete justice to them. When he speaks, you not only want to listen, but also desire to act. He manages to instill a fire within you, much like the character he portrays, and is completely deserving of his Golden Globe win. The actor has also been nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Critics’ Choice Awards, which will take place on Monday, and we’re already rooting for his win.
Watch it for more than just Daniel Kaluuya
While Daniel Kaluuya bowls you over with his inspirational performance, you cannot ignore Lakeith Stanfield in the lead role as the film’s most controversial character. Some may hate him and others may pity him, but Bill did not want acceptance or sympathy. Despite grudgingly, he remained an informant for the FBI until the 1970s and believed he did what he had to do. His character is almost relatable and yet, indistinguishable from the modern armchair activist. It is interesting to see how Shaka King focusses almost entirely on his black characters, while making racism and police brutality evident even with mere glimpses or mentions of the film’s white characters.
WATCH OR NOT:
If you’re interested in American or black history, Judas and the Black Messiah is an essential watch. Even otherwise, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield’s performances make it worth your while. Every activist at heart must watch this film to see real footage of Fred Hampton’s political speeches and the motivation behind his fight for justice.