This film was previously reviewed in February 2021 as part of our Sundance Film Festival coverage.

Shaka King’s highly anticipated Judas and the Black Messiah takes us back to 1968 in Chicago, Illinois. William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) is offered a plea deal by the FBI in exchange for infiltrating the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party as a plant to bring back information about their chairman, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). 

Both Kaluuya and Stanfield deliver two standout performances of their career in Judas. Whenever Kaluuya speaks, he demands attention and respect. He brings an incredible energy to the way he delivers his speeches with such precision, inspiring the groups of people in the film itself, but these ripples also extend beyond just the screen. Not only do we get the opportunity to see Kaluuya as a powerful leader, we also see his ability to be vulnerable during the quieter moments of this film, scenes which are elevated by the incredible Dominique Fishback as Deborah.

At the other end of the spectrum, we see Stanfield humanise the conflicted O’Neal, who is being influenced to become a person he never intended to be. Through his eyes, especially during the close-up shots, we can see the inner turmoil over his betrayal and the paranoia eating away at him. Although performances of this magnitude are not unlike every new role Kaluuya and Stanfield take on, they both completely disappear into Hampton and O’Neal and are given the spotlight to really shine in a truly poignant film.

While Kaluuya and Stanfield stand at its head, there will truly never be enough praise sung for King’s direction and the entire cast who make this film electric. Judas is masterful, and should make you angry too, giving us a necessary look at an important moment in history.



CAST: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Lil Rey Howery, Martin Sheen

DIRECTOR: Shaka King

WRITERS: Shaka King, Will Berson

SYNOPSIS: Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton.