Review in Brief: Judas and the Black Messiah (2020)

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH tells a heightened version of a story that everyone should know, and tells it with righteous anger. Unfortunately some elements of the film’s abundant style do admittedly get in the way, like the depiction of the real shoot-outs as flashily violent Scorsese-esque set-pieces, losing grounding in the process. Why they wanted Martin Sheen under distracting prosthetics as J Edgar Hoover instead of casting someone who actually looked like him is perplexing as well. Daniel Kaluuya is mesmeric as young Black Panther leader Fred Hampton but it is LaKeith Stanfield as reluctant FBI informer Bill O’Neal who has the tougher, more restrained role and is tasked with keeping the whole thing on the tracks. Reconstructions of O’Neal’s only TV interview are powerfully employed to reinforce the imagined but plausible scenes and so we end up with a slippery and difficult portrayal of complicated men. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

Writer and film fanatic fond of black comedies, sci-fi, animation and films about dysfunctional families.
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