Actress Regina King’s directorial debut, One Night in Miami, brings together four historic legends together for one evening to discuss their life experiences that brings into question their effect on the African American community. The film has Malcolm X(Kingsley Ben-Adir) bringing together his comrades Cassius Clay (Eli Goree),Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) at his hotel room for a brief conversation on their respective careers.
Based on Kemp Powers’ play, the film takes place in 1964 when a young Muhammad Ali becomes the heavy weight champion after beating Sonny Liston. Much of the movie takes place after the fight as Ali hangs out with Brown, Malcolm X, and Cooke in a fictional account of what happened between these four legends when they came together for one day. Even though nobody knew what truly happened, the conversations that take place in this film is really interesting as these four men reflect on their own fame and how their professions can truly help Black people in America. Much of the tension comes from Malcolm X, who reminds his friends what they should be doing to help their community while the other three men have their own idea of what they can do.
Each of these men are facing different hurdles in their lives as the film displays on screen. Ali takes in his pride to see that he has become a symbol for the Black community and takes a decision to join Malcolm X in the Nation of Islam, which comes as a shock to Brown and Cooke after hearing the news. Brown is looking to make a career change as he contemplates on retiring from the NFL to become a bonafide actor in Hollywood. He sees Malcolm X as someone who he doesn’t look up to and doesn’t understand why other people do. Cooke is often criticized by Malcolm X for performing and pleasing the white people instead of doing more for hisBlack community. Meanwhile, Malcolm X is in a dilemma of his own as he is looking to leave the Nation of Islam to start his own organization, which doesn’t abide well with his followers.
The four main leads bring in some great performances as audiences get a bigger picture of some issues in America that still in some ways affects us today. After his great turn as Barack Obama in the miniseries The Comey Rule, Ben-Adir bringsin another powerhouse performance as Malcolm X as we see the drama and tension that he brings out onto the screen by pinpointing the faults of his fellow friends. Leslie also gives it his all as the soul singer Sam Cooke as we seethe struggles he faces when he is caught between trying to appease everyonewith his music while also knowing that his fame can only get him so far with the white people. Goree brings in the fire as a young Ali who thinks he is ready to take on the world as he is in the precipice of becoming one of the greatest boxers of all time. Hodge also has some good scenes playing one of the best NFL athletes of all time as he is in a crossroads of what he wants to do with his life while also facing discrimination with his peers.
King makes a fine debut as director as she brings out the best in her actors. Sometimes making a film for the first time can be a daunting task, but King manages to bring a lot of heart and truth as a first-time director. She was able to pull out all the stops when it comes to performances with these four young actors. Even though we see all four of them argue with one another, it’s easy to see how they still end up being friends in the end. Its like the audience is practically hanging out with four legends in their own right.
Despite have the film take place mostly at one location, One Night in Miami feels theatrically a sense. King manages to make the hotel room feel like a safe space that can bring out the best and worst out of each other. The film is tackles friendship, communication, discussion, and how that can inspire others. It also reminds us that social justice and equality should not be taken for granted. One Night in Miami should bean important film to spark that conversation but also seen as one of the best performances from 2020.
Watch the trailer here:
One Night in Miami is currently in theaters and will also be available on Amazon Prime Video starting January 15.
Article written by TANTV Contributor Mufsin Mahbub