Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★½

Aaron Sorkin got a few points for casting Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Hampton in Trial of the Chicago 7 and then lost every single one of them for giving him only two minutes of screen time. More interesting than almost every other character in that movie.

This hit so, so hard. Pretty much everything about this works in perfect harmony to create something so hard-hitting and empathetic. For how loud and intense it is at times, it spends even more time in the quiet and moving moments. Hampton is an easy character to paint as larger-than-life, but the script takes pains to really flesh him out so that he's far more than a political figure. Daniel Kaluuya is nothing short of phenomenal, and he deserves every single trophy he's going to win this award season. If I'm being honest, I've never really been impressed by Lakeith Stanfield before, but I've realized that that's because he's an incredibly understated actor often put in roles that just don't give him too much depth to hold under all the near-silent intensity. This film gives him all that and more. He does a great job with every moment of anxiety and discomfort, and even though not much changes about his explicit demeanor as he begins to get closer and closer to the party, you can still feel him being pulled in this new direction. Dominique Fishback is stunning, the beating heart of the movie, and she makes her slightly stereotypical role so engaging. The inner conflict of the protagonist is so deep and fascinating, and every character is given complexity, even Jesse Plemons (who is amazing as always). The cinematography is really strong, and though the weaker editing felt it was bringing down the energy of a few scenes, the gripping nature of the script ensures that it was kept taut enough throughout. This is a great unintentional response to The Trial of the Chicago 7 in how it brings the focus away from flashy surface-level fact-reciting into the real depths and psyches of the people involved. They feel like people, not figures in a history book.