CalvinLaw’s review published on Letterboxd:
I might not have 100% been in the perfect headspace to watch this tonight but I am glad I did, got my mind of the Golden Globes for a bit.
Reservations out of the way first: the pacing is all over the place at times, definitely could've trimmed down on some of the subplots, since the focus does feel a bit lacking in a few parts in terms of fleshing out of the other Black Panthers and the FBI headquarters scenes felt a bit extraneous. While they didn't brush over Fred Hampton's socialism, more time given to it would have been beneficial.
And on the note of William O'Neal, I'm surprised not more has been made of it but I can definitely see how his characterisation could elicit a mixed response. I need time to think about it specifically in that regard, since it is the main thing which distinguishes this narrative from the documentary The Murder of Fred Hampton. I think it works, but I have reservations.
With all that out of the way, while I might be mixed on the film's conflict regarding the Judas of the title and the aforementioned elements, the portrayal of Fred Hampton by Daniel Kaluuya is tremendous, and any scene that hones in directly on him is fantastic (incidentally he is a co-lead, but I can understand the logic behind him being in Supporting). Every blisteringly delivered passionate speech, but also the more intimate ones in between whether it's with Hampton's partner Deborah (terrific Dominique Fishback) or showing the vulnerabilities of the chairman. The film does falter in parts and I'm not sure if it entirely lives up to the promise of its title - but it does soar in its portrayal of the Black Messiah.