By Chris “Boogie” Brown
One Night in Miami is adapted from the award winning play by Kemp Powers and is directed by Oscar Winner, Regina King. Powers’ brilliant screenplay combined with King’s direction, makes for one remarkable and engaging film that will immediately draw you in. This is powerful drama full of emotion, sharp dialogue, and beautiful performances all backed by a wonderful score and soundtrack.
After a brief prologue of vignettes that introduces us to the characters, we witness the night of February 25, 1964 when an underdog named Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) defeats Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Championship in Miami. Following the fight, Clay calls three of his closest friends to come to his hotel room and celebrate: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). What transpires next is a fictional retelling of that evening. While the gathering was meant to be a simple celebration of Clay’s victory, it turns out to be a meeting of the minds between these four icons of that generation.
This particular evening in question is set at the turning point of the Civil Rights movement and comes at both a pivotal and transitional point in each of their lives. It is here where we dive deep into this dialogue driven film that truly features some amazing writing and acting by this ensemble. Over the course of the evening, the four leads engage in dialogue that ranges from loose conversation and witty banter to discussing, arguing, and debating more serious themes such as Racial Inequality, Spirituality, Religious Affiliation, Economic Empowerment, Social Justice, Responsibility, and Personal Conduct. It is essentially an evening of camaraderie between the four, who also use the time to challenge one another to stand up and utilize their standing & status to become the men their legacies have defined them to be.
The four actors in this feature do an amazing job embodying these legends and Regina King directs them in such a way that humanizes these figures. Despite the limited location of the setting, the friendship we see, the conversation and the debates are all filmed in a cinematic way that complements the storytelling on display. Within a year from when the movie takes place, we know that the lives of each man would change drastically: Sam Cooke would be dead, Jim Brown would retire from Football to pursue Hollywood and Activism, Cassius Clay would become Muhammad Ali, and Malcom X would split from Elijah Muhammad and eventually be assassinated in Harlem, NY.
However, for this one evening, Regina King gives us a glimpse into the minds of four of the most pivotal figures of that era whose talent, efforts and passion continues to influence so many even in modern day. “One Night In Miami” is now streaming on Amazon Prime and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it receive recognition during awards season. In terms of scale and scope, it is a smaller, more isolated film. However, if you are interested in seeing a talented cast ply their trade with excellent acting and poignant commentary all under the skillful direction of Regina King, this is the right movie for you.