Brian’s review published on Letterboxd:
Wow. If we're talking anti-establishment anti-police films at this year's Oscars this is clearly the superior film that isn't afraid to dive into heavy subject matter and doesn't skirt around the details (not to say Chicago 7 is a bad film, but it doesn't take as big of a risk as this film does). Lakeith Stanfield is superb in the lead role and Daniel Kaluuya once again gives an excellent performance (seriously he's way overdue for an Oscar they better give him one for this).
I was not familiar with Shaka King prior to this film and I'm very impressed this is only his second feature film because wow is it well directed. The pacing is excellent and does a great job of building tension leading to the final act. I am not always a fan of films that retell historical events, but Judas and the Black Messiah does a great job of balancing between these events and not simply jumping around from one big event to the other. It carefully interweaves real footage and develops the characters. It's horrifying to watch the brutality and injustice unfold onscreen and that injustice is felt through both violent actions and Kaluuya's delivery of speeches as Fred Hampton. At the same time, Stanfield's Bill O'Neil is complicated and the film emphasizes this by portraying him as both a victim and perpetrator of some horrible acts.
This is an important film especially given how much awareness has been raised towards police brutality in the past year. Obviously this is nothing new and it's a horrible cycle that continues to this day. Judas and the Black Messiah doesn't sugarcoat its themes and hopefully it gets recognition for being unafraid to bring up these discussions as well as being a genuinely well made film.