Paul McGuire Grimes, the creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, sits down with the stars of two movies out and gives us his reviews on them.
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (HBO Max, In theaters)
Daniel Kaluuya is one of those actors you can’t get take your eyes off of. He followed up his Oscar nominated role in Get Out with Black Panther and Widows. In his new film Judas and the Black Messiah, he takes on Black Panther revolutionary Fred Hampton. FBI director J.Edgar Hoover had it out for the Black Panther party. He sees them as a massive threat to national security. It’s 1968 and 21 year old Fred Hampton is the chairman of the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panthers. His goal is to bring a huge group of people together in order to make change. He wants to build a coalition with other activist groups. The FBI has other plans and offers a deal to William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) to be an informant and infiltrate the party in exchange to be freed of his criminal charges.
We saw Fred Hampton featured as a character in The Trial of the Chicago 7 earlier this fall and these two films could work in tandem as a history lesson on the bitter political divide in Chicago 1968. Hopefully this implores audiences to ask why now? What parallels can be made to today? It’s fascinating to watch Judas and the Black Messiah with the backdrop of today and how people view Black Lives Matter, the attack on the Capitol, and the death of Breonna Taylor.
The film is structured as flashbacks with O’Neal being interviewed telling his story for the documentary Eyes on the Prize 2. This provides the film an uneasy feeling wondering how it will all go down especially if you know Fred Hampton’s story.
The film ends with the traditional stats and archival footage which is just as potent as the rest of the film. The film hopes to change your perspective on the Black Panther party and Hampton as your previous history lesson may have come with a very specific bias.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
LAND (in theaters)
Robin Wright is a well accomplished actress, but you may not know that she also directed many episodes of her Netflix series House of Cards and is now making her feature film debut as a director with Land. Not only does Robin Wright direct the film, but she stars as Edee, a woman plagued with depression and trauma. She has a hard time being around people and can’t seem to open up and share what’s going on with her therapist. She decides her only remedy is to buy an old run-down cabin in the middle of the woods to isolate herself from the rest of the world. She’s not totally adept at living in the woods leading to survival issues against the bitter cold. It’s not until a stranger played be Demian Bichir finds her, rehabilitates her, and helps her find herself all without judgment.
From early on, Robin Wright won me over into feeling empathy for Edee as you can deeply feel the pain Wright brings to her character. It’s not exactly mentioned up front what brought her to this heavy mindset but those answers are explored throughout. It’s a character and world so far removed from her role as Claire Underwood on House of Cards.
I kept pondering what it would take to get to this place of such utter loneliness that isolation seems to be the answer. The outdoor minimalistic approach is very primal with the hunting, the gathering, and planting gardens just to survive and I realized I would be terrible at it.
Land runs a swift 88 minutes, which is a good runtime for a film about a deep personal conflict. It’s thoughtful, engaging, and I still felt a complete journey for Edee thanks to Wright’s performance. Sometimes it’s the unexpected people, the strangers in our lives that can have the biggest impact.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS