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Historical dramas can be dry but few have the power that JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH seems to possess. The new movie is from producer Ryan Coogler, who directed CREED and BLACK PANTHER — and this time, Coogler has turned to the real Black Panthers. Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield star as a Black Panther leader and a man who is caught between the activist organization and the FBI.
The first trailer for JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is one of the most striking to be released in a long time. It sets up a tense conflict and a forceful, magnetic lead character — and it has us ready to get in line for tickets right now. If you haven't seen the trailer yet we've got it just below, and we can also tell you everything you need to know about JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH.
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH opens soon: It will be in theatres on February 12, 2021. With the updated Oscar eligibility rules that reflect how moviegoing was different in 2020, this release date means the movie will be eligible for the 2020 Oscars.
The first trailer for JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH crackles with energy. We're introduced to the world in which the story takes place: The Black Panther party is making waves in Chicago by organizing not only Black activists but drawing together a Rainbow Coalition of activists from different organizations in the city.
We meet Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), the chairman of the Black Panthers in Illinois, and William O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), a criminal who is coerced by an FBI agent (Jesse Plemons) into infiltrating and betraying Hampton. The sense of energy is enhanced by the smartly-cut footage and a simple score that escalates along with the visual edit.
Those who know the history of the Black Panther Party in Chicago already know the story here but we won't spoil everything for those who are new to the tale. Fred Hampton started to lead the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in 1968 and quickly became a persuasive and fiery speaker who galvanized the party's efforts to help communities determine their future and advocate for civil rights and police reform.
Hampton was so persuasive that he was able to sway even someone who was put in place to counter his efforts. William O'Neal was a car thief in Chicago when he was offered a deal following one arrest: He could remain free if he would infiltrate the Black Panthers and provide intel about Hampton's activities. And while O'Neal quickly built his standing within the party, he was also influenced by Hampton's ideas. Will he be discovered as a mole for the FBI?
The trailer for JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is primarily structured around one rally led by Hampton but it shows a few other events based in reality. One of the most interesting is the scenes of Panthers working to feed children. That was part of a nationwide program to provide free breakfasts to kids before school, beginning in Oakland in 1969. That program quickly spread nationwide — and was just as quickly targeted by the FBI and local police organizations. Most people know the classic image of gun-toting Black Panthers, but this trailer suggests the movie will offer a lot more.
We've talked about the leads of JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH: Oscar-nominee Daniel Kaluuya (GET OUT, WIDOWS, BLACK PANTHER), LaKeith Stanfield ("Atlanta," KNIVES OUT), and Jesse Plemons (GAME NIGHT, THE POST, "Fargo"). That's an incredible primary cast, and that's just the beginning. The movie also features Dominique Fishback (THE HATE U GIVE), Ashton Sanders (MOONLIGHT) and Martin Sheen (THE DEPARTED, "The West Wing").
To round out the ensemble cast, Algee Smith (THE HATE U GIVE), Darrell Britt- Gibson (JUST MERCY), Dominique Thorne (IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK), Amari Cheatom (DJANGO UNCHAINED), Caleb Eberhardt (THE POST), and Lil Rel Howery, who was so memorable in GET OUT, also appear.
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is directed by Shaka King, and the movie is his first studio feature. King, who also jump-started and co-wrote the film with writing partner Will Berson, has made several shorts and independent features and directed for TV series including "Shrill," "People of Earth," and "High Maintenance."
Shaka King already had a working relationship with Ryan Coogler and pitched the story of Fred Hampton to the BLACK PANTHER director and producer Charles D. King, whose credits include FENCES, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, and JUST MERCY. To shoot the movie, they recruited director of photography Sean Bobbitt, who has photographed all of Steve McQueen's movies, from HUNGER to WIDOWS — where he also worked with Daniel Kaluuya, bringing this movie's creative roster full circle.
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
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