FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party and is tasked with keeping tabs on their charismatic leader, Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). A career thief, O’Neal revels in the danger of manipulating both his comrades and his handler, Special Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons). Hampton’s political prowess grows just as he’s falling in love with fellow revolutionary Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback). Meanwhile, a battle wages for O’Neal’s soul. Will he align with the forces of good? Or subdue Hampton and The Panthers by any means, as FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) commands?
For in-depth thoughts on Judas and the Black Messiah, please see my colleague Dom Fisher’s review from its original theatrical release here.
Judas and the Black Messiah comes to Blu-Ray with a stunning 1080p transfer, which comes from a 4K source. The amount of distinct clarity and detail present on this Blu-Ray is truly something to behold. Subtle details on faces are amazingly clear and fine texture such as facial hair holds up surprisingly well both in close-ups and long shots. The film leans toward the cooler side of the spectrum with blue and grey tones taking more of a precedent in the presentation. The color palette is fairly neutral throughout most of the film, but there are the occasional pops of color, such as certain costume pieces and elements of the production design. Black levels hold up well with no glaring instances of black crush present. Digital noise and artifacting are a non-issue with this release. This is a great presentation for a very visually polished film. The only drawback is the fact that this is a film that would have looked incredible on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is extremely engaging, and it never fails to deliver something truly unbelievable. The soundscape on display here is very rich with a nuanced design from location to location. This film is not meant to be a full-throttle action film, but there are moments where certain kinetic sequences pack a bigger punch than one might expect. The instances of gunfire in the film packs a punch that will shake you to the core. The amazing soundtrack and score hits really hard without being too overwhelming to the competing elements. Dialogue comes through crystal clear with none of the information feeling lost to the music in the film or the sound effects. All of the effects have a nice sense of direction within the mix with noises such as a gathering crowd really springing to life. The movie uses environmental sounds to great effect, and the track retains strong detail even in the more chaotic developments. The track is a powerhouse from start to finish.
- Fred Hampton For The People: A nine-minute piece in which the cast and crew discuss the real-life integrity of Fred Hampton and everything that he accomplished at such a young age. This also explores why those in a position of power felt threatened by his revolutionary tactics and why his story needs to be told now more than ever. This is a really nice complement to the film.
- Unexpected Betrayal: An eight-minute featurette which explores the William O’Neal side of the equation and why having this balanced story is essential to the narrative. This piece also delves into how emotionally taxing portraying this character was for LaKeith Stanfield. Footage of Stanfield wrapping the shoot is very moving.
Judas and the Black Messiah is not only one of the most impeccably executed films of the year, but it has a social relevance that elevates it to something special. While the praise for the film has justifiably been focused on the powerhouse performance from Daniel Kaluuya, the turn from LaKeith Stanfield is likewise something that will leave you stunned. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray that has a pretty great A/V presentation and a couple of worthwhile special features. Movies like this one do not come around every day, so you have to take time to appreciate how well this team pulled this one off. Highly Recommended
Judas and the Black Messiah will be available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 4, 2021. The film is currently available on Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.