Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★½

At times the movie seems far too Hollywood for its subject matter, in a way that feels extremely uncomfortable to me. Blackkklansman had some of this too, but Spike Lee is a masterful enough filmmaker to be aware of his own contradictions and confronted them head-on by referencing Blaxploitation and Birth of a Nation, calling attention to the distorting effect of political cinema in a really fascinating way.

Here, it's played very straight, rendering true revolutionaries as late-stage capitalist action figures. Some of the most notable tells are in the supporting characters played by Dominique Fishback and Martin Sheen, vestiges of studio notes hiding in the periphery of almost every scene. The Battle of Algiers appears to be a major inspiration here, but only superficially.

That said, Kaluuya and Stanfield are excellent, as they both usually are. And Shaka King's direction is often mesmerizing in its immediacy. This is one of the most interesting films in this year's awards race, even if it's more bark than bite.

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