FOLLOWING a fleeting appearance in Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, Fred Hampton steps into the foreground for Judas and the Black Messiah.

This is the acclaimed new biopic from Newlyweeds director and producer Shaka King. Britain’s own Daniel Kaluuya leads as Hampton, with Lakeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal, the FBI informant who would play an increasingly reluctant role in his downfall.

King opens to late 60s Chicago, a hotbed of new and old ideologies, each more volatile than the last. O’Neal is but a petty criminal in this heady mix. When a botched attempt to hijack a car, whilst pretending to be a federal officer, sees O’Neal arrested, it’s not long before he’s presented with a troubling get out jail free card. Infiltrate the Black Panthers and report to the FBI or face a lengthy spell in prison.

By the ripe age of just 21, Fred Hampton had risen to leadership in the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party. This being the 1966 organisation in opposition to police brutality and the systemic racism with which it went hand in hand. It was Hampton’s branch of the Party that O’Neal was tasked with breaching. No mean feat.

And yet, it doesn’t take long for O’Neal not only to join the ranks but develop a close relationship with Hampton himself. Unfortunately for FBI Special agent Roy Mitchell (Game Over’s Jesse Plemons), the closer he gets, the more O’Neal begins to wonder whether the Black Panthers are really the bad guys after all. The perception certainly doesn’t sit well with their community outreach programmes and Rainbow Coalition.

From start to finish, Judas and the Black Messiah proves to be a searing watch. It’s impeccably acted, meticulously written and striking in its approach to cinematic risk taking. King infuses all with intrinsic awareness to the contemporary relevance of his story’s dynamics. More so even than in Sorken’s also brilliant Chicago 7, the film feels and emotes the pains of a still fighting present. This is our past, present and hope for a different, fairer future.

Already having bagged Kaluuya a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award, Judas and the Black Messiah looks set to be one to watch as the 2021 Oscar and BAFTA ceremonies loom. Should you wish to do so, it’s available via video on demand services as of today (Thursday).