"Judas and the Black Messiah" (2021) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #92 Gem Mint 10.0
“Judas and the Black Messiah“ (2021)
Director: Shaka King
Writer: Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenneth Lucas, Keith Lucas
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemmons, Ashton Sanders, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Algee Smith, Dominique Thorne, Martin Sheen, Lil Rel Howery
Rated: R for violence and pervasive language
Runtime: 2h 6min
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
"Bill O'Neal infiltrates the Black Panther Party per FBI Agent Mitchell and J. Edgar Hoover. As Party Chairman Fred Hampton ascends, falling for a fellow revolutionary en route, a battle wages for O'Neal's soul."
You might like this if you like: LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemmons, Historical Pictures, Biopics, Dramas, Dramatic Thrillers, Political Thrillers, Black Panther Party, Ryan Coogler (Producer)
LaKeith Stanfield in "Judas and the Black Messiah" (2021)
A beautiful, cinematic masterpiece with a phenomenal cast of up and coming super stars. Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback and so many more. To be honest, I didn’t even recognize Martin Sheen right away. Brilliant.
After watching this film I wanted to consume more Black Panther Party films and was disappointed to find maybe only 6 or 7. This, and “Trial of the Chicago 7” (2020), being the new additions. "Trial" not really being a full on Panther movie, but when you only have 6 or 7 you take anything you can get. Including “Forrest Gump” (1994). Just personally a fan of diving into sections of history through cinema. Even if it’s only a brief reference. Just my way of learning. After that, it usually spawns into me reading books on the subject and looking things up. I kind of reverse engineer my history lessons through cinema.
Such a powerful story that I can’t find a single problem with. The way the FBI had its hands in everything.. terrifying and unbelievable to watch. What a horrible job to do in the first place. Undercover, informant or whatever it’s called. Just having to be around anyone and getting close, at least for me. If I were O’Neal, of course I’d feel torn and confused! Especially with a huge movement in history like the rise of the Black Panthers!
Daniel Kaluuya (left) & Dominique Fishback (right) in "Judas and the Black Messiah" (2021)
LaKeith Stanfield was outstanding! I was so happy to see him finally get a big leading role. I was a fan of his recently in “Knives Out” (2019) and “Uncut Gems” (2019), first seeing him in “Get Out” (2017) which also starred Daniel Kaluuya. Speaking of which, my god what a f*cking awesome performance! I’d seen his energy level of acting all the way back to “Get Out” (2017) but this was a whole new level of energy. I got chills every time he yelled “I am a revolutionary!”. Just the way he would deliver it each time. The way they used it in the official trailer was just brilliant! Similar chills to when Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther would chant “Yibambe”.
Dominique Fishback was awesome! Another fantastic up and coming actor who I had just seen kill it with Jamie Foxx last year in “Project Power” (2020), which I reviewed as well. I didn’t know, going in, she was in this, and was pleasantly surprised. Maybe I did. I think I watched the trailer minutes before I watched the movie, but prior to that I didn’t know she was in it. Looking forward to seeing where she goes! Would love to work with her one day.
Jesse Plemmons has been around for a bit, but like Daniel Kaluuya, I think, has been on a slow rise to fame. A damn good one, for both, but I still can’t guarantee they’ve caught on for everyone. I’ve been a fan of these guys for years and I know Kaluuya exploded with “Get Out” (2017), but I still run into people who don’t know who they are. Sorry, just clarifying my calling of them “up and coming” when to some, even me, have been superstars for quite some time now. Brilliant and some of my favorite living actors to date. So, so happy to see Plemmons in a bigger role specifically. Kaluuya’s definitely got the leading role of a lifetime over Plemmons but I feel like Plenmons is so damn close to his. And who knows, I’m not saying I’m an expert of his career, maybe I’ll take a dive backwards and find some old gem of his. In this case though, I am talking more about a breakout leading role that shot them to fame rather than a hidden gem leading role.
LaKeith Stanfield (left) & Jesse Plemmons (right) in "Judas and the Black Messiah" (2021)
Shoutout to Darrell Britt-Gibson for getting some amazing screen time too! Loved him in this! Was a huge fan of his in HBO’s “Barry” with Bill Hader.
Random, and this is a big compliment in my book, but in a purely cinematic sense, I thought of “The Raid 2: Berandal” (2014) a lot. Script, structure and character situations. Direction at times. Style. But mostly situational and the way the story was cinematically told through sound effects, editing, long takes and more. Again, a HUGE compliment in my book and in no way am trying to offend anyone by connecting a historical film with a fictional (though I’m sure there have been some violent gang attacks like that at some point in history) Indonesian martial arts crime thriller. I’m not even comparing the two, I just thought of it a few times throughout watching. They both have impacted me profoundly positively in my film career, but in entirely different ways.
I loved this movie to death. Terrific soundtrack! Masterful recreation! Really made me want to dive more into the history outside of just watching more Black Panther Party movies. Thank you so much, Shaka King, for making this historically powerful and cinematically riveting film!
Daniel Kaluuya in "Judas and the Black Messiah" (2021)
Written by Sam Gall on 03/01/21
CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0
"This nervy and spiffy biopic, set in the late 1960s, opens with a scene that would feel right at home in the film noir releases its distributor, Warner Bros., churned out in big numbers some 80 years ago…" Rubén Rosario, MiamiArtZine
"A long-nurtured biopic, Judas and the Black Messiah has all the hallmarks of a carefully constructed project from the impeccably sourced soundtrack to the image grading…" Saskia Baron, The Arts Desk
"Raw, unflinching and powerful! Bolstered by stellar performances, it's a truly must-see event that's not only entertaining and exciting as a piece of cinema, but also as an important starting point for further learning and discussion. "
"This story and subject matter couldn't be more timely and only enhanced by the heart stopping performances of Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya."
Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic
Behind the Scenes:
Available on HBO Max & various VOD platforms
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