Director: Shaka King
Writers: Will Berson (story by), Shaka King (story by)
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons
This film is based on real events and tells the story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) who sought to unite the black people of Illinois, in his role as the chairman of the Black Panther Party in late 1960s Chicago. He is a man of conviction and strength, someone young people could look up to. The FBI is afraid of this potential ‘Black Messiah’ and their agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) sets out to find someone to infiltrate the Black Panthers. William “Bill” O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) turns out to be the perfect candidate. He’s a petty thief and is arrested after posing as a federal officer to steal a car. Mitchell offers him a deal instead of prison time, to work as a mole inside the Black Panthers and report back to him about the activities of the group.
This is the first major film by director and co-writer Shaka King, who previously worked mainly in TV (Shrill and High Maintenance) with one minor film release in the form of Newlyweeds in 2013. He’s assembled quite a cast, with Daniel Kaluuya, Jesse Plemons and even Martin Sheen making a brief appearance as J. Edgar Hoover. The film is very evocative of the period, capturing the details and feel of Chicago in the 1960s.
This is very much a film of the moment. You can imagine the Hollywood executives assembling a number of films to suit the contemporary zeitgeist when the Black Lives Matter movement started to hit the headlines. Even though the story is set over 50 years ago, the themes and ideas expressed are still as relevant as ever. Can we really have progressed so little in the intervening years? This film details the corruption of the authorities and those fighting for equality by any means necessary. It’s a tightly written story and the cast do it justice. As the cinemas remain closed, this time the revolution will be televised!