Last week’s glimpse of Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah” was one of the most powerful trailer drops in recent memory. The commanding 107-second teaser, which sees Daniel Kaluuya star as Fred Hampton, chairman of the Black Panther party, delivered further proof that the London-born star’s incredible run won’t be stopping any time soon. From a small but impactful role in “Sicario” to an Oscar-nominated turn in “Get Out” and much more, Kaluuya’s career has gone from strength to strength over the last five years. Here’s a selection of five excellent scenes that showcase his do-all talent. (Warning: some spoilers ahead.)
5) “Sicario” (2015) — The Bar
Kaluuya is underused in Denis Villeneuve’s tension-filled thriller but does a lot with a little as Reggie Wayne, a by-the-book rookie FBI agent who’s always there to back up his partner Kate (Emily Blunt). Nowhere is their understated but no less sincere friendship more palpable than when the duo head to a bar after a rough day at the office. It’s a rare moment of levity in an extremely bleak movie, and Kaluuya — sporting a pristine American accent — is never less than authentic when ribbing Blunt’s Kate on everything from her eyebrows and fashion sense to her personal hygiene.
4) “Black Panther” (2018) — The Disappointed Friend
Few actors working today can do as much with a silent stare as Kaluuya. There are several examples of this in “Black Panther,” but the most eye-catching instance comes when King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda after failing to capture Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). The unsuccessful mission is particularly disappointing to Kaluuya’s W’Kabi – Klaue had murdered his parents years earlier, and T’Challa had promised him justice — and when he learns of it, trust and excitement quickly gives way to hurt and disappointment. Even as he begins to turn and walk away Kaluuya keeps his gaze firmly on his soon-to-be former friend, giving added emphasis to his sense of betrayal.
An honorable mention has to go to an emotionally charged deleted scene between W’Kabi and Okoye (Danai Gurira), which sees Kaluuya impressively flit from potent rage to pride and tenderness within 90 seconds.
3) “Queen & Slim” (2019) — Traffic Stop
The inciting incident in Queen & Slim is initially all too familiar, as Jodie Turner-Smith and Kaluuya’s titular couple are pulled over by a trigger-happy white cop. The fear and pride that typically flashes across victims’ faces is also present and accounted for, as is the inevitable and unnecessary escalation. What we don’t often see in these situations is the tenderness Kaluuya brings to the God-fearing Slim, which makes it all the more affecting when he ends up killing the officer in self-defence.
2) “Widows” (2018) — A Rap Interrupted
Steve McQueen’s criminally underrated heist thriller saw Kaluuya star as Jatemme Manning, a mob enforcer whose presence is felt by everyone in the room (and the audience) even when he’s firmly in the background, silently observing. One of the first times he shifts to the fore is to confront two low-level henchmen who have let thieves steal $2 million of Manning’s money because they were too busy rapping. Naturally, Jatemme asks them to show him the music that led to the robbery. What follows is both gripping and shocking as Kaluuya goes face-to-face with the budding rappers as they freestyle, grunting approvingly at every line before shooting them dead. It’s a scene that’s all the more chilling (and memorable) for how nonchalant Kaluuya plays it.
1) “Get Out” (2017) — The Sunken Place
“The Sunken Place” quickly became part of the vernacular once “Get Out” debuted, and it’s easy to understand why. The hypnosis scene where Chris (Kaluuya) — a photographer meeting his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time — first encounters the phrase is as memorable for its haunting visuals as it is for Kaluuya’s mesmerizing performance. His face betrays every fragment of Chris’ heartache and despair even while his body remains paralyzed. It’s arguably the finest moment of Kaluuya’s career to date, and it’s no surprise this was the clip that played on Oscars night in 2018.