Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★½

Judas and the Black Messiah really grew in my estimation, which I did not anticipate. I thought that by trying to tackle two genres (undercover and biopic) that it spread itself a little too thin, and I was expecting to be quite bored with the film the second time around, but went to see it anyway because my brother-in-law wanted to. So, my experience the second time was constantly thinking to myself, “oh this is where it slows down, this is where the flaws really start to show”…but that moment never came, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I had forgotten how powerful the opening montage of this film was, but wow does that really work. Then it moves to the framing structure, a remarkably effective replication of an interview with Bill O’Neal. Not only does it immediately ground the film in reality, but it leads to one of the more affecting emotional gut punches I’ve seen in a film. Then that leads into a remarkable opening scene, and the cinematography really stood out the second time around, which made sure I was paying attention throughout, and wow do Shaka King and Sean Bobbitt know how to frame a scene, really splitting the difference between efficacy and artistry. I could go on and on here, but scene after scene impressed with in one form or another. Overall, the editing here was brilliant, I loved how each scene bled into the other. I hate using the same word twice, but this is really just efficient storytelling. King will keep the sound from the previous scene going while the next scene begins, allowing the audience to reflect on what we just saw while getting ready to prepare for what comes next.

My greater respect from the film may have come from knowing what was coming and therefore being able to appreciate the individual elements without getting swept away by the powerful story and themes, but it also may have been the simple fact of getting to see this on the big screen. There was something about seeing these faces on the big screen that made me fully appreciate the work being done, whether it’s the transformation that Daniel Kaluuya made, a transformation I took for granted the first time around, or the unsung work from Dominique Fishback, who takes a supporting role and gives it a lasting impact.

I really didn’t expect to be singing this film’s praises but really happy to see that it not only holds up on rewatch but makes for a more engaging and impressive watch the second time around.

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