Judas and the Black Messiah could not have been released at a better time. Little did Warner Home Video know when they chose the release date how close it would be to some major events in the U.S. This is an extremely powerful film and before this, I knew nothing of its history as I am in Canada.
The story follows FBI informant William (Bill) O’Neal as he infiltrates the Black Panthers to provide info on their rising voice – Fred Hampton. The performances of the two leads are riveting; with Daniel Kaluuya landing an Oscar for best supporting actor in his portrayal of Hampton and a nomination in the same category for Lakeith Stanfield for tormented performance as O’Neal.
Without knowing the story, I was drawn into O’Neal’s struggle on which side to be on. It’s a shame only one of the actors could win the Oscar as both were so powerfully convincing. Historically, little is known about the real Bill O’Neal, and the writers took dramatic liberty with his character. However, without Stanfield’s outstanding delivery of the material, I do not believe this movie would have succeeded.
Seeing a few clips of Fred Hampton in the special features, it is clear that Daniel Kaluuya crushed his imitation of the 21-year-old vice-chairman of the Illinois Black Panthers.
This is a must watch movie. It is incredibly relevant, powerful, and moving.
Judas and the Black Messiah gets a solid transfer to Blu-ray. The colour palette was well chosen and captures an aged feel to match the time for which the story takes place. I never noticed anything out of the ordinary; perhaps it’s because I was so invested in the story. A tiny bit of banding can been seen in the darker scenes, but overall Warner Home Video has provided a solid transfer. But where is the 4K?
When a movie is heavily driven by dialog, you need a crystal clear front channel and that’s what this Blu-ray has. That being said, Fred Hampton’s speech pattern, which is expertly replicated by Kaluuya, is at times hard to understand.
The few action sequences we get uses the whole sound stage. The score also takes advantage of the surrounds and enhances the emotional impact in those moments.
This is the one time, while the score will be low, that I’m not disappointed by the lack of extras. This movie stands alone just fine without them.
That being said we do get a few short featurettes:
- Fred Hampton for the People (9:19)
- Unexpected Betrayal (7:47)
Each of them look at a main player in the movie and show the emotional connection and impacts it has on the cast and crew.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
I will keep this brief. Shaka King, the director, has captured history in a passionate and emotionally impacting way. It’s a must add to my collection despite not being 4K UHD.
While light on extras, the audio/video transfers convey what the story with very little to complain about.