Connor’s review published on Letterboxd:
A powerhouse biopic from producer Ryan Coogler and director Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah is essential viewing. You rarely see movies where everything just clicks. You'll see a movie with good directing, but so-so acting, or a movie where everything is good but the score is lacking. Everybody is operating at their peak with this project. Judas and the Black Messiah is modern filmmaking at it's finest. The subject material is in equal measure fascinating and urgent. The direction is confident and assured. The cinematography is gorgeous. The score is next-level. The performances? Absolutely stunning.
Judas and the Black Messiah is one of the finest films I've seen in a while. Technically brilliant in every way, yet it never feels cold and calculating. My only complaint would be that there's so much political intrigue, backstory, and complexities at work here that I almost wish this was a miniseries instead of a 2 hour movie. That being said, in movie-form, this Fred Hampton/Black Panther movie is as good as we could have hoped for. For it's compact running time, it still manages to pack in an epic's worth of material both story-wise and character-wise. I felt exhausted when the film cut to black.
Daniel Kaluuya is one of his generation's most gifted actors and he proves that here once again. His Fred Hampton is both faithful and completely true to his strengths as an actor. It's fiery and devastatingly human. We've seen Kaluuya give powerhouse performances before but he's never been better than in here. I sincerely hope to see his name on that Best Actor nomination list. He's easily my front-runner. His supporting scene partner, LaKeith Stanfield, gives one of the most morally ambiguous, emotionally complex, and intense performances you're likely to see ever. The real life William O'Neal looms large over both the movie and his performance and Stanfield just knocks it out of the park. Stanfield and Kaluuya are the standouts admittedly but everybody is good here. This is as good as an ensemble as they come.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a painfully relevant retelling of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther party movement that demands an engaged audience to not only watch this film, but also educate themselves on the socioeconomic, racially unjust, and politically crooked history of our country. Shaka King has delivered a masterwork with the help of producer Ryan Coogler who continues to prove that he has the heartbeat of the black community in America and continues to tell urgent black stories for all audiences to consume, emphasize, and learn from.
If you have not seen Judas and the Black Messiah stop what you are doing and go watch it now. If you can safely see it in in a cinema, go see it. Support this movie. If you cannot, I highly recommend getting HBO MAX so you can stream it. This is essential viewing and one of the years best films period.