Fists Raised

The winners write history. The winners, though, aren’t always righteous. For Fred Hampton, the winners then, for a time, were a racist FBI, corrupt local police, and terrified politicians. Too often, it takes 40 years for reality to write itself. Then comes a movie like Judas and the Black Messiah, but it’s ultimately too far in the past to ignite change.

Stories like this need told. And, they need told more often than they are, with the same anger, skill, and authenticity displayed here. Judas and the Black Messiah is ever infuriating, brought to the screen with personal feeling and fire as to relate how impossible Hampton’s cause was against raw hatred. Where some rally against the government after conspiracy fuels their thinking, Hampton’s life was a genuine cause of gruesome overreach for daring to bridge divides.

Judas and the Black Messiah is ever infuriating, brought to the screen with personal feeling

Not without controversy, Judas and the Black Messiah isn’t depicting Hampton as angelic or pure. Righteous in his cause, if not methods, yet his fight gives the story an uncomfortable gravitas. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance borders on the absurdly perfect, genuine and honest, aggravated and certain.

Judas and the Black Messiah does tweak truth, giving the FBI informant Bill O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) a higher placement in the Black Panthers, all for dramatic affect. The authenticity isn’t lost as a result, despite the greater bond on screen than in reality. O’Neal is a frustrating figure, a symbol for those willing to go against what they see as right, only to serve themselves. What cost Hampton his life was paranoia stemming from another, and to watch that play out drives Judas and the Black Messiah.

But a small part, figures like J. Edgar Hoover come across as demonic in their portrayal. There’s no applied nuance as there is with Hampton, or even the FBI agent manipulating O’Neal, Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemmons), the latter of who project a thin racism in dealing with O’Neal. Then Mitchell too acts in revulsion when he discovers some truth, yet makes a choice to continue. Hoover is there to give Judas and the Black Messiah a grand super villain, his lackeys speaking drunkenly over the phone to their master. Their necessary parts feel turned into cartoonish characters – arguably all they deserve in such a context – but lessen the pure reality Judas and the Black Messiah works to generate.

Video

Given a sepia touch, the idea is to hit Judas and the Black Messiah with a vintage aesthetic. The palette stays reserved, at times barely above two-tone. Moderate saturation finds a few moments to show itself, say a neon sign. It’s successful in establishing the period, and the disc doesn’t struggle to handle it.

Likewise, black levels stay at a flat, dried out density. Shadows never hit the deepest levels. It’s lacking by design. Better is the contrast, hearty and full, often intense. That’s an offset to give the presentation the depth it needs.

Slightly softened, the digital source produces firm, packed-in definition. Fine detail flows freely, resolving mid-range and close-ups equally. Sharp resolution is visible despite the hazy filter. The lightest of noise shows, posing no trouble to the encoding.

Audio

A score comprised of jazz and funk uses bass for all it can, filling the room and bringing a shake to the DTS-HD track. It’s forceful. Range isn’t subtle, and undeniably full.

Strong, steady ambiance gives the mix needed space. Rain hits on cars, filling stereos and rears. In a pool hall, balls clack on the tables in each rear channel. A major street shootout generates a stunning debris field alongside the gunfire spread itself.

Extras

Nine minutes look at the real Fred Hampton’s life, followed by seven minutes on Bill O’Neal and the performance.

Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Angry but compassionate, Judas and the Black Messiah peers into a cruel history with layered nuance that doesn’t release tension until it’s over.

Sending
User Review
0 (0 votes)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 28 Judas and the Black Messiah screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 120,000+ already in our library), 120 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, subscribe on Patreon.