Has a movie ever taken your breath away?
That’s what Judas and the Black Messiah did to me. It’s a fantastic time to be a Daniel Kaluuya fan.
Judas and the Black Messiah stars a cast full of knockout actors and actresses, including Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Ashton Sanders, and Martin Sheen.
The story follows the betrayal of Fred Hampton, leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, by William O’Neal, a crook who makes a deal with the FBI to infiltrate the Black Panthers. This story was shocking, jaw-dropping, and revealing. It not only related to the past but stayed relevant to the present. Not only that, but you have a story by the Lucas Brothers, and Ryan Coogler involved as a producer which is a solid team for director Shaka King.
Daniel Kaluuya is breathtaking as Fred Hampton. His performance demands attention from the camera as he plays a stoic leader who commands respect wherever he steps foot. Fred Hampton led the Rainbow Coalition, a multicultural movement that united many races to stop police brutality. Kaluuya is perfectly believable as someone at the forefront of this movement. He nails the portrayal down to every detail, even a pinpoint accent of a Chicago youth whose parents were from Louisiana.
Opposite of Kaluuya is LaKeith Stanfield, who does a marvelous job at making us loath his character. LaKieth’s nervous, paranoid, crime driven performance as Bill O’Neal gives us perspective on his acting range — this is not Demany from Uncut Gems nor is it Cash from Sorry to Bother You. Stanfield is one of my favorite actors working today.
The film’s pacing goes hand-in-hand with the writing to create an experience that never feels off-balance. The entire movie is an experience as we live through the lens of LaKeith Stanfield’s character, Bill O’Neal, as he doubles between the FBI and Black Panthers. We as viewers are pulled into the timely movement that the Black Panthers fought so tirelessly for — equality for all and taking away unlawful power and decisions from the Government. And, as a Black man writing this review, it disappoints me to recall that just last year a black man was innocently slain by those sworn to protect us. We, as a nation, have got to do better.
The cinematography is no pushover either. The driving scenes are among my favorites, as they’re married to a wonderful score that immerses you in the few scenes outside of the dialogue-heavy movie.
This movie, top to bottom, is near perfect. Maybe it was the audio on my TV, but in certain scenes, Kaluuya’s line delivery was a little too rapid for me to understand. It’s possible that without a theater experience I wasn’t able to make out some words. Subtitles were not an option either. And the film does take its time to get to the end, which we can see coming, maybe just a few minutes too long.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a solid film. Had this been released in 2020, it would’ve made my top 3. With the incredible performances, solid pacing, fantastic script, and great cinematography, this movie needs to be nominated in every category.
Judas and the Black Messiah Rating: 9/10
Are you planning on seeing Judas and the Black Messiah? Check it out when it hits both HBO Max and Theaters on February 12th.
Here is the video version of the review: