Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, who previously appeared together in the 2017 film Get Out, have teamed up once again for Judas and the Black Messiah. Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King, tells the story of William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), a petty criminal, who agrees to work undercover for the FBI to infiltrate the Black Panther party and take down revolutionary leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).
Judas and the Black Messiah debuts in theaters and on HBO Max on February 12th, and now the critiques have started rolling in.
CinemaBlend's own Eric Eisenberg saw the film, and he is mostly singing the movie's praises. He gave Judas and the Black Messiah four out of five stars and praised many aspects of the film, including the lead performances and the HBO Max film's powerful story. He said:
While there are some missed opportunities in the structure, the power pack of Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya and the stunning realities the film depicts leave an indelible impact.
Peter Debruge from Variety calls the film “powerful” and predicts it will be an Oscar contender, while also praising the performances, specifically that of LaKeith Stanfield. Peter continues:
There’s no other actor today quite like Stanfield, who turns the cool ambivalence he displayed in Sorry to Bother You into a chilling kind of moral detachment.
Jimi Famurewa from Empire also praised Stanfield’s performance, as well as many other aspects of Judas and the Black Messiah, including the writing, the cinematography, the score, and, again, the other actors’ performances. (I'm sensing a theme.) He goes on to say:
Kaluuya is typically magnetic, selling Hampton’s twinkly, ursine charm, battle-weariness and sonorous, half-rapped speaking voice; Dominique Fishback… leaves an indelible, heartbreakingly human impression with the few lines she has; and Stanfield deserves immense credit for turning a character who could easily be an irredeemable villain into a nuanced, sympathetic figure caught in the violent maw of a systemically racist government.
The performances continue to be commended across the board. David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter noted the "sensational" performances from Kaluuya and Stanfield, while commenting on the currency of the story's themes. He continues, saying:
This is boldly assured, issues-based filmmaking with real heart, and above all with a saddened sense of how the past maintains its hold on the present.
Not all critics were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the film. Robert Daniels of The Playlist touches on Kaluuya's "electric" performance, but says that O'Neal, played by Stanfield, "just isn't a compelling character." He continues, saying:
His internal struggle, choosing between his newfound love of Hampton and his worshiping of Roy, even with King’s callbacks to O’Neal’s interview on the docuseries Eyes on the Prize, is muddled. So Stanfield must fight with one hand tied behind his back to inject O’Neal with greater soul searching.
Though certainly met with some criticism, the response to Judas and the Black Messiah seems to be mostly positive so far, but we'll have to wait until moviegoers see the film to find out if that momentum continues.
Judas and the Black Messiah debuts in theaters and on HBO Max on February 12th, and in the meantime check out CinemaBlends guide to every movie coming out in 2021.