Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★½

There is such a vibrant independent spirit to 'Judas...' from those opening moments that I was immediately transported to 1990s Miramax. My interest in a film about the Black Panthers barely registers, but I was sucked in from the get-go and couldn't pull my eyes away. Some of that was from the breathtaking cinematography from Sean Bobbitt. A lot of it was Shaka King's fresh direction. And the cherry on top was the incredible performances across the board with a pair of unbelievable lead roles from Kaluuya and Stanfield. If the film falters it's because the movie tries to do too much. It's supposed to be a film about Judas's (Stanfield) infiltration of the Black Messiah (Kaluuya) but the movie is too eager to fill in subplots and other details that doesn't give us a total rich characterization. King really does try to do it all, and because of that the movie isn't quite the rich character study, intense undercover thriller, or historical piece of drama it sets out to be in totality. Consider a postscript montage where he wraps up the history of what took place with paragraphs upon paragraphs of words summing everything up. If you're aiming for that kind of spread, make it a 3 hour movie! The audience will watch. But as the final cut stands, there's entirely too much for its runtime to be the piece of sharp, focused filmmaking this movie deserves so much to be. Still, what a way to start 2021 in film!

Aaron liked this review