Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

oh my GOD. Okay.

1. This movie is excellently directed. This could have easily gone awry - its subject matter could have been greatly mishandled, it could have fallen into the trap of being a historical biopic, it could have been too focused on the individual characters and ignored the greater cultural story. But no, Shaka King is a master of his craft and gave us the perfect balance between psychological and sociological storytelling.

2. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. A lot of historical films tend to get caught up in accuracy and realism, and forget that film is a medium with endless possibilities. This movie is ARTFUL. I'm thinking particularly of an intimate moment where Dominique Fishback (who stole the show for me) reciting a poem, which is intercut which this action-driven scene, and it's just impossible to take your eyes off of. The whole thing is gorgeous.

3. I think it's amazing and very important that the movie didn't opt to demonize William O'Neal. It doesn't necessarily present him as sympathetic (since he acts out of self-interest for the entire film, even when you think he'll waver). But it's careful to direct the finger towards the system at large - the FBI and it's horrendous history of manipulation and exploitation. At the end of the day, O'Neal was a teenager who was exploited by the system and eventually succumbed to his demons. It's a tragic story from every angle. LaKeith plays him beautifully.

4. Daniel Kaluuya