ben.’s review published on Letterboxd:
Shaka King’s Judas and The Black Messiah is uncompromising and unwavering in its portrayal of Fred Hampton and the many betrayals that led to his death. its take on this conventional parts of history is intimate; uninterested in making a movie about the broader strokes of Hampton’s politics, but crafting a more nuanced picture of the person he was and the complex history of the death of kiss that proved fatal (even though King makes sure to bake Hampton’s public politics into the cake of this extremely personal story).
Daniel Kaluuya and Dominique Fishback are electric in ways i did not see coming (Kaluuya’s previous astonishing credits notwithstanding). Fishback especially drew me in with her extremely detailed and richly somber performance as Deborah Johnson. but this is ultimately a Fred Hampton movie, and Kaluuya makes sure to keep the spotlight shining on him, and he brings the chops to justify.
i did feel like Judas and The Black Messiah was a little slight in its execution, even as the vision constantly comes through in cracks. Shaka King (and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt) do incredible work, but at times the film tends to fold into itself by telling the story through the eyes of Will O’Neal, whom i found to ultimately be uninteresting (but Lakeith brings his absolute a-game). there’s still so much about Fred Hampton untouched in cinema, and his untapped story is room for powerfully moving and insanely empowering movies. Shaka King’s movie is flawed, but it comes pretty close.