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Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Judas and the Black Messiah

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton
Lakeith Stanfield as William “Bill” O’Neal
Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell
Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson
Ashton Sanders as Jimmy Palmer
Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover
Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush
Lil Rel Howery as Wayne
Algee Smith as Jake Winters
Director: Shaka King

Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

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I heard about Judas and the Black Messiah for a while, I already liked the actors involved, but it was the trailer that made it stand out for me. It then quickly became one of my most anticipated movies and it especially came up in awards conversations, particularly with the performances. It was pushed back to the next year but was released early enough so that it could make it to the current upcoming awards season. Judas and the Black Messiah definitely lived up to the acclaim and expectations.

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Judas and the Black Messiah is written incredibly well and is captivating from beginning to end. It’s tightly scripted and compelling, with a strong energy and an intense atmosphere throughout. One of the standout aspects that makes the movie work so well is that it doesn’t feel like a typical biopic, probably because it isn’t. In some ways it feels more like a historical drama/thriller about one person infiltrating a group, and that helps it work even better if anything. The film at its core is about Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, as well as FBI informant William O’Neal who infiltrates the Black Panther Party. Both storylines get roughly the same amount of screentime and are presented with equal weight, representing an important perspective of a significant time period. The movie is tough to watch at times, it’s a hauntingly tragic powerhouse of a drama that is riveting, even if (and especially if) you know how it ends. One of the biggest surprises of the movie is that it doesn’t shy away from painting the police and the FBI as the bad guys, and it also unapologetic with showing Hampton’s leftist views, both of which you wouldn’t think that a big budget awards movie would do. As you can probably tell from the subject matter, the movie is timely, meaningful and impactful to today’s society. It’s a smart and uncompromising tragedy about fear and power that’s likely to keep you on edge and hooked throughout.

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The acting from everyone in this movie is great. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Fred Hampton, and he didn’t just play him, he truly becomes him. His performance is magnetic and commands a lot of attention every time he’s on screen. He’s not portraying Hampton as a martyr or a hero, but a real person who is fighting for his rights. He inhabits the role perfectly, exuding the same emotions one would expect from him. He’s sensational here, every single line delivery has passion, and those big speeches are where he particularly shines. It’s likely because of Kaluuya’s standout performance that some might forget Lakeith Stanfield’s layered performance as informant William O’Neal, which might be his best work to date. We see much of the film through his eyes, showing us what he went through. Surprisingly, the film never truly demonises his character, bringing sympathy to the role of someone who sold out his own people. You can feel the turmoil within him as he questions whether he’s doing the right thing, as well as the paranoia and shame that eats away at him throughout. It does feel like his role is a bit underwritten, but the performance does a lot to make up for that. The supporting cast in Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and Ashton Sanders also deliver some great work too.

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Shaka King’s direction is great, he has a very sleek and unique style of filmmaking. From the cinematography, to the production design, the costumes and the score, everything was perfectly constructed. It’s particularly shot beautifully, and the way the ‘action’ scenes were filmed were interesting. King’s makes the film feel very grounded and really helped add to the intense atmosphere in the film.

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Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that deserves all the praise and accolades. It’s directed incredibly well, it’s written masterfully, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. Watch it as soon as you get the chance to.

Detroit (2017) Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast
John Boyega as Melvin Dismukes
Will Poulter as Philip Krauss
Algee Smith as Larry Reed
Jacob Latimore as Fred Temple
Jason Mitchell as Carl Cooper
Hannah Murray as Julie Ann
Kaitlyn Dever as Karen
Jack Reynor as Demens
Ben O’Toole as Flynn
Nathan Davis Jr. as Aubrey
Peyton Alex Smith as Lee
Malcolm David Kelley as Michael Clark
Joseph David-Jones as Morris
John Krasinski as Attorney Auerbach
Anthony Mackie as Greene
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

In the summer of 1967, rioting and civil unrest starts to tear apart the city of Detroit. Two days later, a report of gunshots prompts the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Army National Guard to search and seize an annex of the nearby Algiers Motel. Several policemen start to flout procedure by forcefully and viciously interrogating guests to get a confession.

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I’ve been meaning to watch Detroit for a while. With a talented cast that included John Boyega and Will Poulter, as well as it being directed by Kathryn Bigelow, there was a lot of potential, especially with it being based on true events that took place during the Detroit Riots of the 60s. I also heard some pretty good things about it. Detroit was really impactful and was really great overall, it is a credit to the great performances and Bigelow’s fantastic direction.

Before you watch the movie, you should know that despite the title, Detroit isn’t about the Detroit riots, it mostly takes place in the Algiers Motel during the Detroit riots. The opening of the movie was a little questionable, with a lot of backstory dumped through the use of a very out of place animation. Detroit is around 2 hours and 20 minutes long, which was a little too long. I get that the first act is meant to set up events and the third act is supposed to conclude these events but they did feel a little stretched out. However, I will say that maybe it’s because I expected almost all of the events to just take place at the motel, it takes over 40 minutes for the events of the Algiers Motel incident to actually start. The second act is definitely the strongest act of the whole movie, from start to finish it has you riveted. You really feel right there where everything it is happening, it is very intense and can be really hard to watch (which it should feel).

Acting from everyone is fantastic. John Boyega once again proves himself a talent to watch, here he plays as a cop who has to almost be neutral when all these events are going on, he gives a very subtle performance and he deserves a lot of praise for his work here. The actors who played the real life people in the hotel like Anthony Mackie and Jason Mitchell were good, out of all of them Algee Smith was the stand out. The actors who played the cops like Jack Reynor were also great. Will Poulter is the stand out performance however, stealing the show from absolutely everyone as a racist and violent cop who really takes charge during the whole incident. He really deserved more recognition for his performance, if all you know Poulter from is as the kid from Narnia 3 and Maze Runner, that will change after watching him in Detroit. He was intimidating and scary at times but he also felt uncomfortably real, Poulter was a real screen presence. Definitely deserves a lot of praise, really everyone really deserves a lot of praise, they all gave great performances that added to the film.

Kathryn Bigelow is a great director and once again she brings her A game here. She brought to Detroit her shaky cam from her previous films Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker and it works here (more so than other movies with shaky cam) because it adds to the movie. You really feel like you are there when all the events are going ahead. The cinematography also supports everyone in this movie. Bigelow also does very well at making sequences feel uncomfortable and tense and she doesn’t hold back at all. Honestly much of the credit to this movie’s success should go to her, she did great work here.

Unfortunately, not enough people saw Detroit, given its box office failure. It’s a real shame because most people missed out on a great movie. There were some incredible performances and Kathryn Bigelow directed this very well, creating an riveting impactful film. It’s a tad too long and I wouldn’t say that it is as great as some of Bigelow’s other films like Zero Dark Thirty or The Hurt Locker but all in all it is really good. It’s not an easy watch, and I don’t see it having much rewatch value but I do recommend giving it one viewing at the very least.