One Night In Miami Review

Regina King has been having quite a great few years in her career rrcently. First, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk in 2019. Just two months ago, she won an Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie for the HBO mini-series Watchmen. In-between, she made One Night in Miami based on the Broadway play of the same name from Kemp Powers.

The film is based on a fictional meeting of Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) in a hotel room after Ali beats Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world. Malcolm X uses this meeting to introduce the men to the ways of the honorable Elijah Muhammad and to let Brown and Cooke know Cassius/Ali is the newest member of the Muslim religion.

Ben-Adir recently played Barack Obama in The Comey Rule. He’s making it a habit of portraying real people. His role as Obama was relatively small in The Comey Rule. In One Night in Miami, he’s in most of the scenes of the movie. He tries to convince the other three men of how important they are in the civil rights movement. The fact they are all champions in their chosen field gives them a platform to stand up for other black Americans. They can get on camera or stage and express their opinions on their race and or religion. How their people are being mistreated in the country by the law.

Odom Jr. came into the limelight in the country with the worldwide sensation known as Hamilton. It was a huge Tony winning Broadway play and it thrust Odom Jr. into superstardom along with Lin-Manuel Miranda. He recently started alongside Cynthia Erivo in Harriet. His portrayal of Cooke is a conflicted one. He’s confused about his place in the black community. As a producer of music, he feels he can get artists to use their gift as singers to express their opinions on the civil rights movement going on in the ’60s. He has delayed his own involvement, though. Malcolm X hopes to change his mind and gives him the push he needs to get involved.

Hodge and Goree’s characters of Ali and Brown both want to make a difference, but they don’t know how to do so. Even with their platform as great athletes, they don’t think people want to hear their opinions on civil rights. They just want them to entertain them as a boxer who floats light a butterfly and stings like a bee and a football player who runs like a freight train through defenses on the gridiron on Sundays. These men are unsure if being part of this movement is the right thing for their images. Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X disagrees. This is why they could be such important pieces in the movement because of who they are in and out of the sports venues.

Prominently set in one location, King and the cinematographer Tami Reiker do an excellent job of moving the camera around to focus on different conversations between the four men. This was very effective in capturing the drama between them, especially between Odom Jr. and Ben Adir. They have the most contemptuous discussions about who they should be and how to represent the black community in the country. This method was similar to what Sydney Lumet did in 12 Angry Men. The more tension between characters the closer the camera got to their faces as well. This film benefits from these techniques.

One Night in Miami shows how the civil rights movement affects each man differently and how they react to their various positions on where they stand. King and company adapt this story brilliantly from the stage to the screen. Great performances from all the main players, most notably Ben-Adir and Odom Jr. help keep the flow of the film moving forward. This is a must-see film for everyone because of the issues they discuss in that hotel room. These are issues affecting black men and women still today. This was definitely the time for this great film to be released. 

5 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Head Film Critic/Editor disappointment

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