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Illustration by Madison Cohen

Directed by Shaka King and based on a true story, “Judas and the Black Messiah’’ is a heartbreaking movie about the conflict between the Black Panther Party and law enforcement. It also reminds us all how little has changed since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s regarding police violence and racial inequality. 

Set in Chicago, the story follows William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), a Black man who, against his will, becomes an FBI informant releasing information on the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s. O’Neal becomes close to the party’s chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and must choose between his own personal interests and the interest of the Black Panthers.

Kaluuya, known for his roles in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Marvel’s “Black Panther,” delivers another incredible performance that captured all my attention. My favorite scenes are when Hampton gave speeches on racial injustice and the party’s goals. 

These moments really resonated with me because it’s clear what he’s talking about still pertains to what is happening in the present, especially since the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020. 

“You can murder a liberator, but you can’t murder liberation,” Hampton said in the film. “You can murder a revolutionary, but you can’t murder revolution. And you can murder a freedom fighter, but you can’t murder freedom!”

O’Neal is a very complex character who the viewers find themselves rooting for, but also hating because of the harm he is doing to the party. I also wanted everything to work out for him, but I realized his actions were unforgivable. However, his story is still so tragic considering what happens decades after the film’s events.   

The movie is filled with devastating scenes that are honestly hard to watch, ranging from police brutality to bombings. These parts aren’t enjoyable to watch, but they show a harsh reality everyone should be aware of. 

Throughout the film, I found myself constantly frustrated with what situations the characters were in. From wrongful incarceration to police brutality, the events encapsulate how hard the government tried to stop the party and Black liberation. It is also inspiring to see these people bounce back after constant mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement. 

The film further cemented my thoughts on police abolition and racial injustice. However, it made me want to further educate myself on the Black Panthers and Malcolm X, people who I think are really misrepresented. In my eyes, this picture is perfect for people who seek further education on Black history and for people who may have weary thoughts on Black empowerment movements. 

Rating: 9/10

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