Director: Shaka King
Cast: LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Algee Smith, Ashton Sanders, Dominique Thorne, & Martin Sheen
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I have been excited for this film since seeing a snippet of Daniel Kaluuya on set during production via some entertainment news platform. I am a sucker for anything docu-adjacent (documentaries, docu-series, docu-films, historical account films, etc.). So this film was right up my alley.
I definitely enjoyed this film, even finding myself smiling immediately at the image of LaKeith who is the first face that pops up on the screen, like some damn 1950s poodle skirt teenager seeing her crush! LOL
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Below are my grades for key components in #JudasAndTheBlackMessiah that I find to be key in any story/film—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development. I think it is also important for me to add that moving forward, I will not include a plus-rating in my breakdown, but will continue with minus-ratings.
Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), & Don’t Rush.
I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.
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Character Arc/Development: B
Entertainment Factor: Worth the Watch
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1. The opening scene with LaKeith…👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾🙌🏾
2. Come through, Dominique Fishback! Going from #ProjectPower on Netflix to the big screen! YESSS! I was glad to see her. 😊
3. First and foremost, I love me some Daniel Kaluuya! Secondly, I was so proud of his performance as Fred Hampton. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾
4. There was such an air of smoothness throughout this film. Maybe it was the setting and the language; but no matter what happened, everyone and everything felt so smooth. Even the scenes of violence. 👍🏾
5. Although it was interesting to see the beginning and end interview moments in comparison to one another, they weren’t really necessary because they weren’t used intentionally other than to create some small feeling of “surprise…” 🥴
6. I wasn’t sure who I was going to be drawn to, Daniel or LaKeith. I think both men gave really admirable performances, and I naturally went in ready to give Daniel all the flowers because despite my love for LaKeith, he has a very mellow acting style in all of his films (but he does give really great facial expressions–probably one of the best in the industry). However, I did find myself captivated by LaKeith a little more than I thought I would. 👍🏾👍🏾👍🏾
7. Another surprise that made me smile was seeing Algee Smith and Ashton Sanders. Ashton was such a Kee! And both were always ready! 🤣
8. My one issue with LaKeith’s character is that I wish there was something else provided in the background to truly aid in the character’s development. He was a well delivered, round character, but that “opening question” between him and Mitchell that ultimately becomes the deciding factor to the movement of the plot doesn’t give enough. I needed another 10 minutes of seeing LaKeith’s character prior the actual opening scene to truly understand him and his arc. 🥴🤷🏾♂️
9. And to piggyback off of point #8, especially considering the last interview response, I would have loved to see just a little more to O’Neal’s perspective in relation to his existence in the struggle. 🤦🏾♂️
10. Speaking of struggle, I definitely appreciated the film’s manifestation of this theme. The complexity was told so well between our 2 main characters, as well as through many of our tertiary and confidante characters leading to the last interview response. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾
11. You know…the interest was definitely apparent with Deborah, but something about their storyline felt slightly rushed and oddly edited in… You can tell that the focus was more on the Illinois Black Panther events, and that their storyline was a borderline afterthought or maybe a final plugin for texture. 🥴
12. To piggyback off points #4 and #6, Daniel is also another actor who has a very mellow/smooth acting style that continued to come across in this delivery as well. I definitely enjoyed seeing him on screen, and liked his overall performance, but I also couldn’t help seeing just a more outspoken Chris Washington, W’Kabi, and Slim. 🥴🤷🏾♂️
13. Oh shyt! I literally just realized that this is Daniel and LaKeith’s second time sharing the screen together since #GetOut! Awwww I bet this reunion was fun!🤣
14. I had NO idea that was Martin Sheen! 🤭
15. This film is very unapologetic in its very clear depiction of the system vs everybody else. Additionally, I appreciated seeing Hoover’s role in these events told so explicitly. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾🙌🏾
16. To piggyback of point #6, there were SO many times that I felt LaKeith was given away too much with his expressions. Especially the scene when he meets George Sams. I was like, “Dude, you are CLEARLY coming off suspicious!” 😩🤦🏾♂️🤣🤣
17. Chile… Chicago of the 60s… The Crowns… The Disciples… The Panthers… my goodness. BUT the beautiful thing is that film seemed to make sure to show that all of these groups were protectors, first and foremost. 👍🏾
18. PEORIA! PeriodT! #HometownReppin I just always like when Peoria is brought up because folks love to act like Peoria is some small, irrelevant “town” when it’s not. 🤣
19. Was it just me, or did it seem like Mitchell was reading off a cue card or something in that living room scene? 🤔
20. It’s the sudden name change, then nickname, and hometown subtleties, for me! Nicely done to help further drive the theme. 👍🏾👍🏾👍🏾
21. 99 to 1! To see that scene… …😔😔😔 and LaKeith’s delivery did a good job in helping to build the tension and emotion for that scene. 👍🏾
22. oh, and Dominique Thorne’s character! Yeah, she played no games. 🤣🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾
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Overall, #JudasAndTheBlackMessiah is a definite must watch. I am sure the awards season will be looking at LaKeith (and maybe Daniel, too, since he is already a past Oscar nominee). If you know your history in regards to Fred Hampton, then you’ll more than likely go into this film already knowing what to expect to some degree. For some, this may bring back triggering memories. For others, it may be an introduction to an aspect of history you never knew.
However, I have to say this… Yes the film is good, AND I think it is important to also recognize that we are currently in phase of our societal makeup where many uplift almost anything that is currently “on brand.” Is this one of the “best” films of the year because of what I mentioned in point #15? A point that is currently “on brand…”
Or is it one of the best because it is truly one of the best when compared to all films released so far this year? It’s just something I am paying attention to, and have been paying attention to for quite some time now…