Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★

Was I going around my living room shouting “I AM... A REVOLUTIONARY” after this movie ended? Hell no. Who am I kidding, of course I was. Putting aside the blatant category fraud, to which Lakeith Stanfield even acknowledged, this film features two electrifying performances that I consider to be the leads of the film. Now it’s clear that Stanfield is our protagonist, but Daniel Kaluuya is the engine of the film. The most accurate comparison would be Ethan Hawke technically being the lead of Training Day but Denzel Washington ultimately being the core of the movie, Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York is another example.

Daniel Kaluuya is surprisingly heartwarming here, he adds so much humanity to the role of Fred Hampton that you can’t help but root for him. Lakeith Stanfield brilliantly tackles a grey character that you can’t quite hate despite his actions. Kaluuya is probably the runaway winner in the supporting actor category, but I’d argue Stanfield to be just as good (should’ve been nominated for lead). Shaka King’s direction is immersive and I love the Sean Bobbitt’s cinematography (it’s certainly up there with Hunger and the rest of his Steve McQueen collaborations). Craig Harris and Mark Isham’s score is jazzy, offbeat and crucial to film’s tense environment.

I do wish the film had been about 15 minutes shorter, as it would’ve better maintained the flawless pacing of the first half. It felt like the filmmakers knew the heights they could reach but had to restrain themselves to stay faithful to its screenplay, when the more fluid, natural scenes are the standouts to me. An example is Kaluuya meeting with Khris Davis’ character (Tracy from Atlanta! Must watch for fans of Lakeith), and how they take their time to shoot their interaction in mostly one take. Sign me up for more Jesse Plemons and Martin Sheen as an unlikable law enforcement combo. Sheen’s Hoover is so despicable. I do wish it was able to escape some of its biopic movie tropes, but overall I was extremely moved by this.


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