Judas and the Black Messiah gets rave first reviews

Dan Seddon
·3-min read
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

From Digital Spy

Judas and the Black Messiah duo Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield could be serious Oscar contenders thanks to their performances as Black Panther Party head Fred Hampton and FBI infiltrator William O'Neal.

The historical thriller (directed by Shaka King) just debuted at Sundance Film Festival, which means the first rush of reviews have arrived online.

Below we've gathered a variety for you to check out.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Marvel's Daniel Kaluuya knew Black Panther would change Hollywood


"Kaluuya again demonstrates exceptional force as an actor, particularly effective in re-creating Hampton's speeches, so self-assured at only 21, sadly presenting a man cut down before he could go on to greatness.

"But it is Stanfield who really has the most challenging job here, trying to navigate both sides without imploding, a flawed man tragically deceiving himself and everyone around him. Stanfield is sensational in the role, a career best to date."

Empire Magazine:

"Buoyed by a trio of standout performances, this freshly resonant thriller brings urgent life to one of the Black Panther movement's greatest tragedies. Shaka King is a force to be reckoned with."

The Telegraph:

"In some passages, the film abides by the biopic rulebook more carefully than it needs to; its best moments are the ones where King and his cast create some tension then simply let it cook. There's a sensational late sequence at a bar, in which O'Neal begins to apprehend the gravity and scale of the plot in which he's entangled himself.

"The cold light of history might have exposed him as a traitor, but in these shadows, the edges are far from clearly defined."

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Black Panther and Get Out stars in new look at thriller Judas and the Black Messiah

The Guardian:

"Stanfield gives us a career-best performance as poor William O'Neal, wonderfully cast as the ordinary guy who gets in over his head: Stanfield's gentle face, often breaking into a slippery but charming smile, is enough to break your heart.

"Dominique Fishback is surely in line for a best supporting actress Oscar, with her sensitive, sympathetic performance as Fred's partner Deborah Johnson."

The Hollywood Reporter:

"This is an electrifying ensemble piece, its sorrow and outrage resonating over the postscripts detailing the personal and legal outcomes. Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt gives the film a textured neo-retro look in which colours pop against the generally more muted tones of Sam Lisenco's production design and Charlese Antoinette Jones' period costumes, which add to the ambience without ever drawing attention to themselves.

"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."

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

The AV Club:

"Director Shaka King takes a novelistic approach to the material, concentrating less on the relationship between the two title characters and more on what was going on in Chicago around the time FBI informant William O'Neill infiltrated the Illinois Black Panther Party in 1968.

"Those hoping for a climactic confrontation between the film's exciting lead actors won't find that here, because, well, it didn't go down like that in real life. But there's still plenty of dramatic friction to be found."

Judas and the Black Messiah comes to HBO Max on February 12.

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