Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★

The American echo of Steve McQueen's Small Axe eschews the medium bending elements, instead dispensing its depictions of police on black community violence and the resulting political animosity in one traditional two hour package. The production design is handsome and the performances, particularly Kaluuya's, give personality and depth to the real life characters. Not unlike McQueen's films, I feel the visual outpaces the writing, particularly with respect to how the film conveys information. I also am a bit half in, half out on the Scorsese pu pu platter approach to the material. It's very well realized and the incorporations are smarter than some prestige would-be imitators, but it gives the whole movie a been there, done that feel that highlights how predictable the story's beats are. To King's credit, he imbues the film with the appropriate amount of tragedy to make it all work. But I also feel like there could have been even more time with the Kaluuya-Stanfield pairing, fleshing out their dynamic to enhance the emotions. The movie works largely on the back of those two men, and it seems a misstep not to put them side by side in a bulk of the scenes. I feel Hampton's story, the performances and the aesthetic could've come alive alongside material with more ambition, but it does largely come together into a satisfying, ultimately bleak whole.

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