Judas And The Black Messiah delivers a powerful portrayal of the death and betrayal of a black civil rights activist


(15) 126mins   


THE Civil Rights movement in 1960s America is well-trodden ground on the big screen.

But Judas And The Black Messiah introduces us to one key player that many may not have been aware of.

And it does so with performances so powerful that his is a name — and a story — you will never forget.

Fred Hampton was only 21 in 1968 when he was killed by FBI officers as he slept in his bed in Chicago, while his pregnant girlfriend Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback) stood outside the door.

Played by Brit Daniel Kaluuya (Skins, Get Out), Hampton is our Black Messiah — a charismatic speaker, revolutionary and chairman of the local Black Panther political organisation.

Kaluuya gives a performance of remarkable intensity, conviction and passion that will take your breath away.


As a historical biopic, Fred Hampton’s short life story is captivating enough before you even factor in that his death was brought about by a man he thought was a comrade and friend.

Car thief turned FBI informant Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) is the film’s Judas.

As part of a plea bargain, he infiltrates the Black Panthers and rises to the role of head of security.

Living a double life, he is tasked with feeding information back to his handler, Agent Roy Mitchell, played by Jesse Plemons. His information ultimately leads to Hampton’s shocking and premature execution, a lifelong burden for Bill to carry.

Good versus bad, right versus wrong are themes as old as time.

But here, set in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X — but with impossible-to-ignore contemporary overtones — director Shaka King makes them electrifying.

Looming large over the action is infamous FBI director J Edgar Hoover, played by an unrecognisable Martin Sheen. He wants Hampton finished at any cost.

But as we watch conflicted power-pawn O’Neal both mani-pulate and be manipulated — entangled in a web of corruption, betrayal and politics he can’t escape — it is hard not to feel sympathy for the man whose actions had such dire consequences.

Shocking closing documentary footage provides further insight into whether his really was the ultimate betrayal.

On streaming services


(15) 140mins


SPIDER-MAN Tom Holland and Captain America directors Anthony and Joe Russo seem determined to show they can make more than just superhero movies.

This over-long addiction tale is based on the best-selling biography by Nico Walker (played by Holland).

It charts his life story from marrying college sweetheart Emily (Ciara Bravo) and becoming an army medic in Iraq, then returning home, where, haunted by his wartime experiences, he spirals into drug addiction and a life of crime.

Told chronologically, the film has a lot of fussy and flashy techniques going on, and the irritating conversational asides to camera, in particular, often serve to distract more than compel.

Perhaps this is why Holland, despite playing his part flawlessly, never really feels like the right fit as junkie Nico, and no matter how aspirational or slick the direction, an unconvincing air lingers over the end result.

The best scenes are those between Nico and wife Emily. Amid all the misery, Bravo’s performance and the couple’s love story breathes some fresh air into the grim proceedings, even as their lives unravel.

But while it is stylish and artistic, it’s a joyless watch, and far too self-indulgent to be completely successful.

  • On Apple TV


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(PG) 118mins


IS it too soon to start watching Pandemic-themed tales for light entertainment?

Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight doesn’t think so as he has come up with this Covid-inspired romantic crime caper set during the early weeks of the first UK lockdown.

Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor lead as ex-couple Linda and Paxton, recently separated from a long-term relationship, but forced to continue living together due to the mandatory government Stay Home order.

As media exec Linda and courier Paxton cope with the obvious challenges of co-habiting 24/7 with an ex-partner – albeit in a swanky London pad with no sprogs to home-school – the script relies on virus-related clichés. There are endless Zoom dialogues and work-from-home japes, daytime wine, and obligatory Clap for Carers. But unfortunately even these two top-notch lead actors (alongside cameos from Ben Stiller, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling and Sir Ben Kingsley) can only carry the painful proceedings so far.

A last-minute random plot twist involving a diamond heist at Harrods ups the action considerably but it can’t rescue the credibility.

Just like lockdown itself this is mostly tedious, and feels never-ending.

  • On streaming services

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