Matthias Bruneel’s review published on Letterboxd:
All throughout Judas and the Black Messiah, I was enjoying the film a lot and was impressed by the performances, direction and story, and then came the ending. Since it's a biographical film, I already knew what happened to Fred Hampton, but even then, it's still an incredible gut punch of an ending and it made the film even more impressive than it already was.
It tells the true story of William O'Neal, who was sent to infiltrate the Black Panther Party of Chicago to gather up information on its leader Fred Hampton. In exchange for this information, his criminal charges would be dropped. It's an interesting take on the classic undercover agent genre. It has all the classic elements of the genre like the growing paranoia and the charming leader of the infiltrated group for example but here we actually root for Hampton and the FBI are the clear villains here. The film also tackles a lot of current issues in the USA like police brutality and discrimination of the black community. It's a shame that events of nearly 50 years ago still feel so applicable to today.
The performances here are very impressive. Daniel Kaluuya, who rightly won the Oscar for his performance, is incredible as Fred Hampton. He breathes so much life into his character and not only nails the many bombastic and impressive speeches he has to make but also is completely believable when he shows the vulnerable and self doubting side of his character. He completely disappears into Fred Hampton and it's impressive to watch. LaKeith Stanfield is also very good as William O'Neal and manages to portray the conflictedness of his character and the growing sense of paranoia he starts to experience incredibly well. That these two actors were nominated as supporting actors is a joke, because they definitely were the leads here and did a phenomal job. The actual supporting players here are also very good with Dominique Fishback as Hampton's girlfriend and Jesse Plemons as Stanfield's slimy FBI handler as the standouts.
Director Shaka King makes everything look beautiful and makes the film go by at a steady pace. It is maybe a tad too long but that's really a bit of a nitpick. It's a strong outing and I'm very interested in what he does next. Big recommendation.