Director: Shaka King
Writer/s: Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenneth Lucas, Keith Lucas
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and more.
Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield… Stamp it, seal it, I’m gonna watch it. This film had “impressive” written all over it and I am here for it.
“The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal.”
Fan-fricken-tastic! “Judas and the Black Messiah” is equal parts a cinematic experience and a theatrical history piece. The drama of it all kept me 100% locked in for its two hour duration. That is also much to the efforts of Kaluuya and Stanfield’s performances, but we will get to that in a minute. Through the ups and the downs of this whole story, it is an absolutely gripping story to be told on both perspectives of Fred Hampton and William O’Neal. I firmly believe anyone interested in this film would be locked in.
I have been in this mans corner since “Get Out.” He has put out performance after performance, and he is here to stay. With his performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” I feel this is his best work yet and is going to be the standard to beat for the rest of his career. There were no bad moments in regards to his performance here. From the power speeches to the quiet and private conversations. Kaluuya as Fred Hampton is enough of a reason to want to watch this film.
Similar to Kaluuya, this man keeps delivering. From smaller parts like “The Purge: Anarchy” to more notable roles in “Selma,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Snowden,” and many more. As of 2018, in my opinion, he really broke out with “Sorry to Bother You” and the hit TV Show “Atlanta.” With quite the impressive laundry list of entertainment work, Stanfield does not sleepwalk through his pieces. This man has hit homeruns time and time again, and that is for damn sure the case here. His role as William O’Neal presents the ever conflicted individual that he was. His range of emotions throughout the film is something to be wow’d by. One note that I was over the moon impressed with was how Stanfield projects so many emotions just with his eyes. He does not have to say a damn word, and I can feel the moment.
So I have a whole lot of praise for this film, and it deserves it. However, one thing that bothered me that kept it from gaining a whole point or even a half point was the pacing at times. While many of the moments are probably key to fleshing out the characters, sometimes the slower moments or sudden jumps to the federal agents just felt off to me.
The trailer for “Judas and the Black Messiah” was pretty damn good, I must say. This is one of the few occasions where the trailer hype transfers right into the proper energy to make the film just as good and even better. If this film did anything for me, aside from impress as a cinematic work, it made me want to dive into the real history itself. Which I would suggest doing afterward to compliment the film. Catch this one, folks. If not for the entertainment of it all, but also for the upcoming award season that I am sure this movie will be shown some love during.