Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★

It took me a solid half hour for this movie to "kick in" for me, but once it did it had me.

I never really understood the hype around Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out: I thought his performance was very good but not transcendent. I thought he was much better in Widows and even Black Panther. But in Judas..., I 100% get it. He absolutely leaps off the screen as Chairman Fred Hampton, and it's one of the best performances of the past year.

And until Uncut Gems, I had always felt that Lakeith Stanfield, though undeniably talented and charismatic, had never really been used properly, even in his starring roles. But again, his performance as Bill O'Neal shows why he is poised to be a superstar.

The film does a great job of showing the inner conflict of O'Neal, trying to balance his conscience and saving his own ass. His character (in the moral sense) is contrasted with Hampton, who is as true blue a revolutionary as you're willing to find.

Of course all of this shit is infuriating, because the disgusting amount of institutional racism of 1969 is only marginally improved, and mostly due to the ubiquity of personal cameras rather than any kind of newly-discovered moral rectitude.

I'm also glad to see a movie about the Black Panthers that shows the nuance of the organization: yes, they were a militant revolutionary organization, but they also fed the poor and reached out to other marginalized groups. And yes, they were righteous, but they also had some serious mafia shit going on internally.

I do wish that the sound was better: I had to watch most of the movie with the captions on because of the muddiness of the sound. The dialogue is fast and furious, with a lot to process, and I had a hard time following it otherwise. (I could also just be losing my hearing. Shrug.)

This would make a good double-feature with The Trial of the Chicago Seven, even though Judas... is better, and I'm sure more faithful to what really happened.