arden’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Black Panthers were such a powerful revolutionary movement, one that can't be captured realistically within the bounds of cinema. Beyond the struggle, the Panthers worked to educate, organize, and mobilize the masses towards collective movement to end fascism. It is difficult to depict them in the process, a feat I've seen only Agnes Varda execute well in her short 1968 documentary on the Panthers.
The difference between the said documentary and this film is that the Panthers were given the platform to speak in Varda's documentary. Their history was not given the same chance here, as their struggle felt almost demonized, reduced to nothing but the armed struggle. I went into this thinking it wouldn't end up being another liberal biopic, but it felt that way. I wanted to see more of the Panthers and the way they organized the masses, not the inner workings of the FBI. Not to humanize the informant that still caused an arm of the movement to crumble. I wanted to see Fred Hampton amongst the people, his revolutionary love for the people.
Despite that, I still appreciate the film and the sentiment behind it. Also Daniel Kaluuya was excellent in this, as was Lakeith Stanfield. Although I couldn't convince myself to actually take the message of the film seriously knowing it felt empty and voyeuristic despite the movement behind it having so much weight. Then again, what did I expect from a big budget studio?
Four stars solely for the great performances by all the actors, but not for the depiction, though the sentiment is appreciated. It's a step towards having more films that educate the masses about the movement.