Hunter ᴴᴰ’s review published on Letterboxd:
Most times in mainstream movies the Black Panthers are the supporting characters in the background to a bigger theme of a culture in revolution. Shallow classifications of berets and militaristic uniforms with raised fists and raised guns rather than layered characters with individual motives. Judas and the Black Messiah changes that.
The story is familiar Hollywood fare of informant who begins to sympathize with the ones he's out to betray. The difference between Judas and the Black Messiah and the usual petty FBI crime drama is the heaviness of history. Study of complex political figures and a movement that's not dictating history but asking questions. The leading performances show both power and restraint in a film about layers to events political and personal. Daniel Kaluuya bares a passionate man provoked and angrily optimistic in the society around him ready to answer through his persuasion and ideas of change. All of his parts in exploring an intelligent man fighting for freedom and justice are definitely the best parts. LaKeith Stanfield is really great at showing internal fear through his eyes making him what I thought was going to be perfect in this role but the whole film truly falls on his back and falls average. By design I feel like he is the main character and ultimately his story but I didn't particularly get the full complexity of a character like William O’Neal from his performance or insight into character. But he was still okay and is a decent catalyst in showcasing Fred Hampton.
A gritty style that feels influenced by Scorsese and his love of complex characters. A film that is a welcomed rewind to aggressive and vital filmmaking with a blockbuster universal appeal. And the added bonus of some well done lighting and framing. I really enjoyed the explosive final moments as they dramatically playout. The ending held the most residence for me with the added nuance of the real O'Neal reflecting on his time being an informant on the frontlines in the PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize. This made me ask why I haven't watched that before and I‘m sure the segment of O’Neal in the 14 part documentary will enhance the understanding for O’Neal but Judas and the Black Messiah does a soild standard characterization of a story finally told correctly to the masses.