ciaran_vallely’s review published on Letterboxd:
When the trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah dropped sometime last year, I immediately thought "well that's the best trailer I've seen in years," and allowed my expectations to run a little wild. Thankfully, and happily, the movie lived up to all those expectations and more.
This is the type of movie I wished Hollywood would make more. An explosive, kinetic, powerful movie, backed by a studio budget, that forefronts movie star performances. Shaka King is firmly on my radar going forward now, very excited to see where he goes next.
Just to focus on the performances though, I've said it before and I'll say it again, Lakeith Stanfield and Jesse Plemons are two of the best and most exciting actors working today (this isn't meant to be a slight against Daniel Kaluuya who is certainly in the top tier right now as well). Having heard Stanfield recently talk about Judas and the Black Messiah and William O'Neal, his performance really is much more engrossing. To have to play a person for whom you hold a lot of negative feelings towards, and over the course of the movie make the audience feel sympathy for him really shows the talent Stanfield has.
Kaluuya is downright mesmerizing as Fred Hampton. I've only just started my own education on the man, but what struck me immediately was Kaluuya's determination to invoke his spirit and power. Hampton was a brilliant orator, and a commanding presence, both things that Kaluuya nails throughout his performance.
If I had to level one criticism towards the movie it would be that Kaluuya perhaps does not look as youthful as Hampton. I think it will take a lot of people will be surprised when they find out that he was only 21 at the time. However, there isn't really anyone else that I would have rather seen in the role, so that is the tiniest of nitpicks.
Judas and the Black Messiah should be the shot of adrenaline in the arm of this awards season, and I'm kicking myself now for not picking it up in my Fantasy Movie League.