Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

With Judas and the Black Messiah, Shaka King has developed a gripping and heartbreaking drama centered around its two incredible leads. So many sequences in this film are tense and white-knuckled filmmaking at its finest. Daniel Kaluuya portrays the more showy of the two, yet the authority and gravitas he lends to his portrayal of Fred Hampton is palpable to say the least - especially in the speech scenes, but also in the way he intently listens in to every conversation he's in. LaKeith Stanfield gives a comparatively more understated and subtle performance, but no less brilliant than that of his peer. As the betrayer, he has to be able to turn the performance within the performance on and off so easily, while also transforming the character over the course of the film as his motivations change and evolve and his facade starts to crack.

Judas and the Black Messiah is a film with fiery resolve, eager to stand its ground but also content with presenting both sides of this brewing war, which I found really commendable. Messianic figures are hard to make relatable, so I'm glad Bill O'Neal is given more of the spotlight, although he can feel just like a bystander at times due to the nature of his role in the plot. The lengths that the FBI go to, too, are jaw-droppingly vile - key among them is Jesse Plemons' character, initially presented as a rose among thorns yet revealed to be a more calculating kind of villainy as the film goes on: someone who's content with the status quo as it is, and thus contributes to the problem as well, which I don't see as often in film. Another main qualm I have with the film would be that they didn't cast younger actors for 20-plus-year-olds Hampton and O'Neal. Sure, Kaluuya and Stanfield are great in these roles, but it's hard to see them as the young adult revolutionaries they were. I guess it does make for some shock value once those end titles hit, though.

Shaka King is proving to be a master at combining an auteurist vision with blockbuster tendencies and I am here for his next projects, absolutely.

" When I leave, you can remember I said, with the last words out of my lips, that I am a revolutionary. "

2021 Ranked

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