Director Shaka King's historical drama, Judas and the Black Messiah, is an engrossing piece of filmmaking. This movie is a true story of an American tragedy in the 1960s, but it is very relevant of what is going on in our society right now. It's also an extremely well-crafted, tension-filled thriller.
LaKeith Stanfield (Short Term 12, Sorry to Bother You, Knives Out) plays Bill O'Neal, a small-time hood who is busted for impersonating an FBI agent and stealing a car. The real FBI gives him a choice: either go to jail for a long time or infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and keep tabs on its chairman, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). O'Neal accepts the latter, but he didn't expect to become emotionally involved in the Black Panther's cause.
Actor LaKeith Stanfield excels in a difficult role. He is playing someone who, in turn, is playing a role but is conflicted between a cause he is starting to believe in and self-preservation. There is not a false note in Stanfield's performance. In fact, the actor is so intense in this movie that he reportedly ended up seeing a therapist after filming wrapped.
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Queen & Slim) delivers a masterful performance as well, radiating strength and wisdom but never overplaying it to a mythic degree.
It's only the second month of 2021, but Judas and the Black Messiah will go down as one of the year's best films.
Judas and the Black Messiah is in theaters now and is streaming on HBO Max now until March 14.
*** ½ (out of four)