Buckb’s review published on Letterboxd:
The first studio release I've seen since the pandemic started that has felt like actual cinema. Where The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Mank felt like glammed up TV movies, Judas and the Black Messiah feels like an experience best suited for theaters, complete with real movie stars and exquisite production values.
First off, Shaka King directs the ever loving shit out of this. I knew I was in good hands after the car thief scene, and he didn’t disappoint, delivering several other dizzyingly crafted sequences. A biopic with a visual language, can you believe that? Kaluuya, Stanfield, Plemons, and Fishback all deserve the praise they are getting too. Also points for an original score that actually stands out and isn’t just a substitute for the editor’s temp tracks. Good stuff.
I do wish it delved a bit deeper into the Hampton/O’Neal relationship, and structurally it adheres too closely to convention, at times feeling like the beats are just a checklist for the “undercover cop” genre. But those are incredibly minor complaints during this cinematic drought, and the emotional payoff outweighs all of them.