Sundance ‘Judas And The Black Messiah’ Review: A Relevant Film About The Oppressed Fighting The Oppressor – Mashable India

Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King and written by King and Will Berson, follows William ONeals (Lakeith Stanfield) attempts to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and help the FBI to take down its chairman, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). King extensively covers every possible dynamic in the relationship between ONeal and Hampton and the rest of the people rallying around them. And in addition to drawing parallels between the plight of African Americans then and now, the movie also sends a powerful, universal message about how we shouldnt side with oppressors even if its for our survival because the damage that does is irreparable.

At the time of writing this review for Judas and the Black Messiah, Indias farmers are hosting one of the biggest protests of all-time against the Narendra Modi governments 2020 Agricultural Acts. The farmers have been harassed in every possible way for dissenting. Their protest has been infiltrated by the ruling partys goons and maligned by the Godi media (Nickname for Indias lapdog journalists). The farmers attempts at reaching the protest sites have been thwarted by diverting entire trains and the Indian police have planted barricades around said protest sites which are laced with nails and iron rods. And almost anyone who is trying to highlight it is being arrested. Why am I saying this? Because I am sure every mainstream film critic is going to draw parallels with the Black Lives Matter movement. But not many are going to talk about its slighter international relevance.

Judas and the Black Messiah is directed by Shaka King. It is written by King and Will Berson and is based on the story by Berson, King, Kenny Lucas, and Keith Lucas. It is produced by Ryan Coogler, Charles D. King, and Shaka. The music is by Craig Harris and Mark Isham, the cinematography is Sean Bobbitt, editing by Kristan Sprague, casting by Alexa L. Fogel, production design by Sam Lisenco, art direction by Jeremy Woolsey, set decoration by Rebecca Brown, costume design by Charlese Antoinette Jones, and hair and makeup by Sian Richards and Rebecca Woodforks teams. It features Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Darrell Britt-Gibson, and Dominique Thorne. The story revolves around the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and how FBI informant William ONeal (Stanfield) betrayed its iconic chairman, Fred Hampton (Kaluuya).

I wont be going too much into the plot because it has been extensively recorded and talked about in documentaries and in this film. And I want you to experience it firsthand. Instead, I will be talking about what it made me feel. Our point-of-view character is William ONeal whose sense of self-preservation is so high that he will rather side with the Feds than support his own community to fight systemic racism and oppression. In real life, I see this happening on a daily basis. The level of fear that has been created by the Narendra Modi government and the law enforcement agencies doing its bidding that people have chosen to either shut up or silently do what theyre being told to do or openly and vocally supporting them. And thats empowering these fascist forces that theyre being able to get away with almost anything.

The tragic thing about oppression is that its being done by people on people hailing from the same goddamn country. India received freedom in 1947. 1947! And people are still oppressed. Why? Because the government and government agencies always have and always will hate dissent. They want people to stay oppressed so that they can make money by making everyone else work their guts out. So, if you think that siding with the system will help you get out of its cycle, youre wrong. Youve to hold those who have promised to keep the system democratic accountable for their actions. For that, you have to speak up. If you dont, youre doing some irreparable damage that will take years, decades, maybe centuries to fix. Thats what ONeal and Hamptons journeys show. When fascist forces are at play, you have to look above your own self-interest and work for the people so that they can have a free future.

A recurring problem that I have seen in movies based on true events such as this is that they dont have flair. It often feels like theyve taken pages from the events Wikipedia page, plopped the camera on the set, and has recorded some footage. Thats when you start feeling you couldve just read about all this instead of watching it. Shaka King probably knows about that and goes all out to make it an immersive audio-visual experience. Because its important that the imagery and the sounds stay with the audience so that they can take those themes back home and start to implement them into their lives. For example, the I am a revolutionary scene is burned into my brain, and although its a slogan that was used for an African-American fight, I felt it stir something in me and motivated me to do my bit in the revolution happening in my country.

Apart from being a political thriller, the movie functions as a detective/spy movie as well. But most importantly, it is a well-choreographed action film as well. You probably might be thinking that how does that help in any way? Well, a good action movie has the ability to address the magnanimity and weight of the plot. If theres a palpable sense of tension during a shooting scene, you empathise with the heroes and thereby root for their movement in a way that extensive dialogue scenes probably wont be able to do. And King employs this method along with the beautifully shot and framed dialogue scenes. What I mean to say is that his dialogue-heavy scenes are as tense and electrifying as his action sequences. So, theres a one-two-punch thing going on to embed the importance and depth of the story, which is something that I hope other directors start to do as well if they want to be as good as Shaka.

I dont think it will be an understatement to say that this is one of the best performances that Lakeith Stanfield has delivered in his career and the man has a laundry list of brilliant performances. There is so much going on with William that he externalises and internalises very methodically. William is always toeing the line between being too assertive and being too passive. If he is too assertive, the Black Panthers are going to catch him and the FBI is going to fry him. If he is too passive, the FBI is going to find out that hes sitting it out, theyll let the Black Panthers know, and he will be punished for being a snitch. And this conflict is eroding away at his soul and Lakeith captures that so perfectly. The final scene between him and Daniel is way too painful to watch!

I also dont think it will be an understatement to say that this is one of Daniel Kaluuyas best performances, right? How does this man deliver every time? Because hes awesome that why. I think that its very tough to portray determination and conviction to a political cause unless you feel it deep within you. I mean, that could be just me but feigning allegiance to something political must be difficult. And I think that Daniel isnt feigning it here. Every word, every flicker on his face, his physicality is coming from somewhere deep within his gut. Thats why it pierces through the wall between the reel and the real and hits you. Fred Hamptons lines are definitely powerful. But I dont think reciting them wouldve had the same effect. Its very apparent that he went deep into his psyche to give such an honest and heartfelt portrayal (Which is undoubtedly aided by Fishback) of an iconic leader.

The rest of the cast deserves a shoutout as well. They did exceptionally well although this is clearly a Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya movie.

I cant emphasise the importance of Judas and the Black Messiah in the current political climate enough. This is essential viewing for all! Yes, you can appreciate it as a well-crafted movie by Shaka King with two of the best performances of all time by Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya, and call it a day. But you have to dig deeper into the core themes of the film, engage with the commentary on display, and think about your place in the revolutionary movements that are definitely happening in your country (I say definitely because every country is fighting for change. If you dont see it, that doesnt mean it isnt happening). And always remember that when you have to pick sides during this ideological and humanitarian crisis, be the Messiah and not Judas.

SEE ALSO: Sundance Night Of The Kings Review - A Beautifully Created Ode To The Magic Of Storytelling

Cover image courtesy: Sundance Film Festival 2021

See more here:

Sundance 'Judas And The Black Messiah' Review: A Relevant Film About The Oppressed Fighting The Oppressor - Mashable India

Related Post

Comments are closed.