brilliant movie, watch it
I have so much to say about it but I’ll wait for others
I watched it two nights ago. As traumatic as Fred Hampton’s killing is, it’s inspiring to watch and think about how powerful people can be if they believe in their own power and share a common cause. Watching this while i worked through AC’s new joint has been fairly galvanizing.
GQ: What motivated you to make this film?
Shaka King : A number of things. One of them was the fact that I recognized the opportunity to put forth some really radical ideas in a very palatable vessel. [Keith and Kenny ] came to me and said, “Look, we have this idea for a movie about William O’Neal and Fred Hampton. And we see it as The Departed inside of the world of COINTELPRO.” That was the pitch.
They’d taken it around to all the studios for a year and they were all like, “What? Uh, not interested.” I would watch that movie in two seconds if you told me it existed. And I’d say I had a rather surface-level understanding of the Panthers’ politics, but I knew enough to know the world could use that—and that this is the only way to get it to them. Because there’s no way that you’re going to be able to make a Fred Hampton biopic within the studio system. There isn’t even a Louis Armstrong biopic, and he’s on stamps. And then you start reading Fred’s words and you’re like, “Whoa, OK. Not only are these politics radical, but the way that he’s presenting them is incredible.” He was such a wordsmith as a writer. And this is me not even hearing him yet, I’m just reading.
So then I’m reading and I’m like, “This is so profound.” He’s reduced this idea that academics write long treatises on to very simple terms that are so witty, clever, funny, relatable, and profane. It was like reading standup—but they weren’t jokes. And then to hear him deliver them and to say, “Oh my God, he’s MCing now. So he’s the first MC. OK cool, so I can make a movie about the first MC and it can also be an undercover movie? Who wouldn’t want to make that?” So it was all those things. I don’t know why the Lucas Brothers came to me, other than the fact that we had a great rapport having worked together on a pilot presentation. But when they brought it to me, it was just the only thing I wanted to do.
Film was solid
Funny that The Departed was name-checked as LaKeith gave a much better ambiguous-yet-obviously-tormented performance than the one-note Where’s My Oscar? Leo in Scorsese’s Hong Kong Ripoff Extravaganza that has rendered the Bostonian accent too cartoonish to take seriously forevermore
this seems like it will have too much soundtrack to be actually compelling
this interview makes the movie sound worse than it is, which is kinda odd. really wouldn’t call it “an undercover movie” or “the departed inside of the world of cointelpro”
maybe I just have a soft spot for it because of how much the fred hampton story pisses me off, but I don’t think so. the acting alone carries it
Daniel Kaluuya is an absolute slayer, I’d watch him in anything
really wish we weren’t terminally stuck in “when you really think about it, jesus was the first mc” rhetoric. oh well, still will check this out.
It’s a little more of a Bill O’Neal movie than a Fred Hampton movie but it’s all around solid and makes for kind of a decent Black History Month double feature with One Night In Miami. Also accidentally serves as a corrective to Aaron Sorkin’s weird unnecessary Hampton in Trial of the Chicago 7. Kaluuya is great and electric even though he’s kinda old for the role. Stanfield is fantastic and I will probably show up for almost anything he does. I am very grateful that this movie was in the hands of these writers and this director because the FBi stuff would have been so toned down and sympathetic in so many other people’s hands. Can easily see a version of this where the Jesse Plemons character is much more of a tortured “but at what cost” character instead of how he ends up. Plemons really has found his lane with these kind of polite monster roles. I do understand the complaints of veteran Black actors about how Hollywood has kind of decided to continue to give the main character roles in American civil rights stories to British actors at the expense of nurturing more new homegrown Black talent.
Not having watched this yet, but having seen other recent Plemons stuff, I appreciate that he basically took the Evil Path off of Landry in FNL. Like Landry could have turned out decent, but also very easily not, and Plemons seems OK leaning into the not.
yeah insofar as I have critiques of the movie it’s 1) casts established actors, 2) casts actors that are too old, and both of these are mostly explained in the interview above - they had to cast it this way to get it made, and it is what it is
but it’s worth noting, bill o’neal was 17 when he started informing, and hampton was 21 when he was assassinated. fred was younger than bernie and he still should be alive today. i don’t know how you bring that through on film, but yeah
let me write a longer post… interested also in @digs thoughts
Plemons / Kaluuya / Stanfield is an incredibly stacked cast
extremely solid flick, they didn’t fuck up the politics and the cinematography and lighting are better than I think I’ve seen in an American movie in the past year at least
my comrade chip wrote a review for Jacobin. he’s a long time journo of the “FBI infiltration” beat