Review: Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah

Movies can do so much more than you would think. They entertain the audience but also make people aware of environmental issues, political dilemmas and social injustice. Do you want to see a film that proves that in the most stunning, exhilarating and heartbreaking way? Then watch Judas and the Black Messiah, the latest movie by director Shaka King (Newlyweeds, Mulignans). With a stunning Daniel Kaluuya in the leading role, this film lifts the Black Panther movement’s story to a whole new level.

Judas and the Black Messiah
Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal in Judas and the Black Messiah // Credit: BRON Studios

Real-life events turned into a thrilling movie

To put the ‘based on real-life events’ stamp on this movie, Judas and the Black Messiah opens with archival footage of Fred Hampton (played sensationally by Kaluuya), the chairman of the Black Panther Party’s movement in Illinois and the founder of the Rainbow Coalition. Hampton has ties with multiple groups fighting against black people’s oppression and therefore he’s on the FBI to-watch list.

Because FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) wants to uphold white supremacy, the Black Panther movement and Hoover’s agents clash on multiple occasions. To find out what’s going on inside the Black Panther movement, FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) recruits Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) and plant him successfully within the Black Panther Party. As the head of security, O’Neils has the full trust of Hampton and is the perfect pion for the FBI. However, when that trustworthy bond is being put on the line, things take a different and deadlier turn.

Judas and the Black Messiah
LaKeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal and Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell in Judas and the Black Messiah
// Credit: BRON Studios

The performances are what keep this movie going

The reason or better said reasons why you need to watch this movie, are the stunning performances. Kaluuya (Get Out, Queen & Slim) embodies Hampton perfectly! Whether it’s as the loyal friend and brother during the battle or as the Black Panther community’s determined leader, Kaluuya knows his character from the inside-out. The “I am a Revolutionary” speech scene is one of the most impressive, emotional and hypnotizing scenes you will see this year. It would come as no surprise if Kaluuya would receive an Oscar nomination (and possible the Oscar itself as well).

On the same high-standard level, we see Stanfield (Knives Out, Uncut Gems) as O’Neal, the guy who has to report to the enemy what his people do every day. You should detest and hate O’Neal because of his betrayal, but instead, you feel, sympathize and even connect with him. This is due to Stanfield multi-layered, emotional and on-point performance.

Judas and the Black Messiah
LaKeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal in Judas and the Black Messiah // Credit: BRON Studios

Not only the leading performances are captivating, but also the supporting ones are certainly doing the trick. You might not have heard of Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, Project Power), who’s portraying Hampton’s partner Deborah Johnson. However, we’re pretty sure you will follow this great actress from close-by after seeing Judas and the Black Messiah. This is because of her vulnerable, touching and mature acting. Plemons (The Irishman, Vice) brings many layers and complexity to his character, one that could have fallen flat if not performed well.

While the acting performances are great, but the characters themselves aren’t as compelling as they could have been. Therefore the story and the legacy of the Black Panthers don’t reach their full potential. That being said, the last half of the film is extremely exhilarating and fast-paced. The beginning seems a bit slow and confusing, but the end certainly makes up for that.

Big impact on society and on the award ceremonies

Because of the current climate, Judas and the Black Messiah won’t have a cinematic run, you can still watch it via the comfort of your home. You should take that chance. Just don’t expect one of those ‘just made for Hollywood’ biopics. Instead, you will get a rough, unpolished and straight to the point movie. While the start makes you wonder whether you’ve made the right decision by putting on this film, the remarkable performances and the thrilling overall vibe convince you that Judas and the Black Messiah was worth watching after all.

You can watch “Judas and the Black Messiah” via video-on-demand from the 11th of March.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Also Read: Queen & Slim (Review)

Like this article? Get the latest news, articles and interviews delivered straight to your inbox.