Film Reviews Cat

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

10/10

“Judas and the Black Messiah” covers the story about the chairman of the Black Panthers, and his betrayal by a FBI informant. It is a story about betrayal, inequality, and friendship. However, more importantly it is based on the documentary series “eyes on the prize” (PBS.org) which is a reminder of the past. 

I asked myself the following question; why don’t I consider this movie to be a 10/10? A ten is perfect in my opinion, and this movie is perfect. So why not give it a full ten out of ten? Maybe it has something to do with the level of historical events that were used in this movie (semi-docu feeling). Or maybe because it confronts us, or rather me, with the atrocities that were commited. Maybe the topic is too ugly to see on the big screen, and too painful to watch. But the directing, acting, dialogue, and plot are too perfect to not give it a perfect score. Besides, it is great that this film leans on “eyes on the prize” because it makes us aware of inequality, and reminds us of the possibilities to change the status quo into something positive. So yes, I changed it from a 9.5 to a 10/10 because it is a perfect movie.

So why do I consider “Judas and the Black Messiah” a perfect movie? First of all the entire plot development makes every moment relevant and exciting. There are no ‘dead’ moments that could be considered irrelevant. Every minute of this film keeps your eyes glued to the screen, and evokes different emotions. I would even argue that the entire human emotional spectrum can be found in this film, and this is very difficult to accomplish. Secondly, the acting is out of this world. The entire cast did a phenomenal job portraying all of the characters, and emotions that came with the territory (oppression). The role of the informant, the Judas in this story, was also well developed and realistic. Sometimes they put the informant in situations which are totally unrealistic, but that was not the case here. This might be because they had enough primary source material of the original informant to work with. 

Moreover, the directing felt new and daring, and created a total immersive experience for the audience. In my opinion this is a very specific way of directing a movie. Normally you would see these techniques with action movies. However, these scenes felt way more fluent and natural when compared to your average action movie. This was especially the case in one of the first scenes where the camera follows one of the characters into a bar. There is a similar experience in the movie “Full Metal Jacket” (1987), and in my opinion both can be considered war movies. You might not think of “Judas and the Black Messiah” as a war movie, but it definitely has all the characteristics of civil/urban warfare. The trenches in “Judas and the Black Messiah” are important buildings in the neighborhood, and every faction is fighting to control these areas.  

To conclude, I would advise everyone to watch this movie as soon as possible because it is entertaining, and can be experienced as a gateway into material such as “eyes on the prize”. I would not make the argument that this movie is educational because it carries too much of the Hollywood factor (entertainment value). However, that is only a positive thing as more people might watch it, and eventually become more interested in this topic. Additionally, I would not be surprised if this movie would inspire other filmmakers to make similar movies. For example about the Philadelphia bombing (1985). I really hope that “Judas and the Black Messiah” will open the doors for similar projects. Time will tell if this is the start of something bigger in Hollywood.

Directed by: Shaka King 

Writing Credits: Will Berson, (story by) & Shaka King (story by),  and Kenneth Lucas (story by) (as Kenny Lucas) & Keith Lucas (story by) Will Berson, (screenplay by) & Shaka King (screenplay by).

Cast:
Daniel KaluuyaFred Hampton
LaKeith StanfieldBill O’Neal
Jesse PlemonsRoy Mitchell
Dominique FishbackDeborah Johnson
Ashton SandersJimmy Palmer
Algee SmithJake Winters
Darrell Britt-GibsonBobby Rush
Lil Rel HoweryWayne
Dominique ThorneJudy Harmon
Martin SheenJ. Edgar Hoover
Amari CheatomCollins
Khris DavisSteel
Ian DuffDoc Satchel

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