Judas and the Black Messiah (12)
Verdict: stylish and captivating
Verdict: Deserves a health warning
Daniel Kaluuya’s inclusion in this week’s Bafta nominations will come as no surprise to anyone who sees his thrilling performance in Judas And The Black Messiah. What seems a bit strange is the category: Best Supporting Actor. It’s a bit like calling Mick Jagger or Cristiano Ronaldo a support act.
Kaluuya plays Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois branch of the Black Panther Party, who was murdered by Chicago police in 1969. It’s a true story, so I don’t think that counts as a spoiler. Moreover, the title of the film itself rather betrays the ending.
It starts with Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) recalling events from two decades earlier in a 1989 television interview. O’Neal was a car thief who, with a fake FBI badge and a lot of brass neck, confiscated people’s car keys and scarper.
Daniel Kaluuya’s inclusion in this week’s Bafta nominations will come as no surprise to anyone who sees his thrilling performance in Judas And The Black Messia.
He eventually got caught and offered a deal. In the words of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen, with enough prosthetics to keep us from envisioning The West Wing’s angelic Liberal President Jed Bartlet), the greatest danger to the United States, “ more than the Chinese, even more so than the Russians’, was the rise of a ‘black Messiah’.
Hampton, with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X both murdered, seemed to him the most likely candidate.
Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor got bored in lockdown. Here she plays an American expat, Linda, married to a Brit named Paxton (Ejiofor).
So to get out of a five-year sentence for posing as a federal agent, O’Neal was told to infiltrate the Black Panthers and get close to Hampton in particular.
Decent but dated, just like Denzel
A seasoned out-of-town cop haunted by memories of a long-unsolved case that basically ruined his career, teams up with a shiny young college officer when a serial killer resurfaces in Los Angeles – only for the younger man to get an emotional slap as well. to get.
If that sounds like a dated premise, it’s because it is; writer-director John Lee Hancock had the original idea in 1993.
Main suspect: Jared Leto may be a murderer
The Little Things (three stars) seems like a throwback on screen, as well as on paper. But with Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as the two criminals, and Jared Leto as their seedy prime suspect, the retro feel doesn’t stop a moody psychological thriller from gaining traction. It’s not without its flaws: Are there really uniformed agents in the US as old as Washington (who turns 67 this year)? But it is slick, atmospheric, beautifully acted and beautifully filmed.
Cherry (two stars) offers another cocktail of crime and sanity when a deranged former US soldier (Tom Holland) becomes a bank robber to fund his drug addiction. The film is directed by the Russo brothers, who have collaborated with Holland in the Avengers movies, but this is a much less successful collaboration, not least because the protagonist does a ‘Goodfellas’ by telling his own life story. Here, without any particular fault of Holland, it gets very worn out very quickly.
Yes Day (two stars) too, which is a shame as we could all use a decent family comedy. But this is mostly a sugar-sweet and pointless mess, prompting an all-American mother (Jennifer Garner) to reshape her children’s view of her as a fun-loving tyrant by giving them 24 hours in which she and her husband (a struggling Edgar Ramirez) will answer all their demands in the affirmative. The British sitcom Outnumbered covered similar territory with infinitely more humor. Yes Day, on the other hand, is a definite no-no.
- The Little Things is available on most digital platforms. Cherry is on Apple TV +; Yes Day is on Netflix.
From there, Shaka King’s film unfolds like a thriller, but a finely nuanced film, where the treacherous O’Neal finds camaraderie and even ideological intent as he rises up the Black Panther hierarchy, while moral unease gnaws away at his FBI. -handler, Roy Mitchell. (Jesse Plemons with the standard 1960s FBI haircut, parting modeled on a freeway).
An uncomfortable but poignant scene finds Mitchell having an audience with the fatherly, blatantly racist Hoover, who uses the ghost of Mitchell’s little daughter one day ‘bringing home a nigger’ to suggest that a whole way of life is at stake. .
Stanfield and the ever-reliable Plemons are both great, as are Sheen and Dominique Fishback (also a Bafta nominee) as Hampton’s girlfriend. But this is Kaluuya’s show, and I mean it as the greatest compliment possible when I say you can’t take your eyes off him even if you have no idea what he’s saying.
At least it takes a while for a British ear to tune in, and so the man who grew up in North London lives entirely in a bustling, charismatic 1960s radical of a working class Chicago neighborhood.
There are, of course, a lot of movies about US civil rights in the 1960s. In the past few months alone, we had Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial Of The Chicago 7 and Regina King’s One Night In Miami. But especially the latter seemed to me to succumb to his own artifice.
Judas And The Black Messiah tells its compelling story fiercely, but with a lot of swagger and style. It’s the cream of the crop – and let me throw in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods too – by a street.
Speaking of accents, and streets for that matter, I come to Locked Down, which is largely set on a middle-class London thoroughfare during the initial coronavirus lockdown and features Anne Hathaway, but don’t fret if you’re still at night screaming wakes up her Yorkshire vowels in One Day (2011). Here she plays an American expat, Linda, married to a Brit named Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
Those are some top-notch leads, and the cast also includes Ben Stiller, Ben Kingsley, Mark Gatiss, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling and Claes Bang, a classy ensemble by any standards.
Additionally, the writer is Steven Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders whose big screen credits include the fabulous Locke (2013), while the director is Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr And Mrs Smith, Edge Of Tomorrow).
So it’s not unreasonable to sit down with Locked Down with high hopes, and all the more disappointing when they are destroyed in moments, which is as long as it takes to realize that Paxton and Linda, whose marriage is crumbling, equally insufferable (although the former might just surpass it).
They don’t talk, they just exchange nagging monologues that could no longer sound scripted if they actually read them, and you’ll lose patience with them and their miserable relationship long before Knight’s disastrously overwritten script comes up with the most unlikely heist caper . think I’ve ever seen in the movie (and I’ve seen the Morgan Freeman turkey Momentum).
The irony of all this is that by telling their story during the pandemic and churning it through with an AZ (antibodies to Zoom) of Covid-era buzzwords, Knight and Liman clearly wanted to strike a collective chord. Unfortunately, it is the starkest agreement you can imagine. The film deserves a total lockdown, preferably in a steel safe, somewhere deep underground.
- Both movies are available on most digital platforms.