Judas and the Black Messiah Trailer: Daniel Kaluuya Honors Fred Hampton

The heroic life of Fred Hampton, the Black Panther activist who was assassinated by the FBI at just 21 years old, is getting the silver screen treatment. On Thursday, Warner Bros. dropped the trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah, a new drama based on Hampton’s revolutionary rise in the late 1960s—and his tragic downfall after being betrayed by informant William O’Neal.

Daniel Kaluuya stars as Hampton and, per the trailer, delivers a staggeringly kinetic performance. The trailer is largely comprised of snippets of Kaluuya as Hampton delivering rousing speeches at rallies and protests. “You can murder a revolutionary, but you can’t murder a revolution!” he shouts in one scene, a reference to the young activist’s most memorable rhetoric. All the while, he’s being watched by O’Neal, played with anxious energy by LaKeith Stanfield. Jesse Plemons plays Roy Mitchell, the FBI agent who threatened O’Neal and got him to turn on the Black Panthers. Dominique Fishback also stars as Deborah Johnson, a fellow Black Panther and Hampton’s fiancée.

Judas and the Black Messiah was directed and cowritten by Shaka King, a rising filmmaker who’s made a name for himself by directing standout episodes of shows like Shrill and High Maintenance. (His short Mulignans is also well worth a watch.) His first feature was the indie Newlyweeds. Judas and the Black Messiah was cowritten by Will Berson, and coproduced by Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler.

In a recent virtual panel for the film, King addressed concerns from Black people who didn’t think it was appropriate that Kaluuya, who is British, is playing an American revolutionary. “I’m well aware of the debate around British actors playing American Black, iconic figures,” King said, per Variety. “But I was born in America, my family is Caribbean and I have a South African name, so I am, literally, emblematic of a diasporic way of thinking.”

“Kidnapped Africans ended up all around the world,” he continued. “We have a lot more in common than people think, in terms of our experience and trying to overthrow white supremacy.”

Kaluuya has faced similar criticism before, namely when he starred in Get Out, Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning social thriller that dug into the horrors of racism in America. Samuel L. Jackson was one such critic, lamenting Kaluuya’s casting and saying the film might have been different with an American lead.

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