by Landon Johnson 26 October, 2020
Regina King’s directorial debut One Night In Miami thoughtfully portrays a fictional account of a night that actually took place.
On February 25, 1964, civil rights leader Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), NFL player-turned-actor Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and famous world champion boxer Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), all congregate at a hotel in Miami to celebrate Ali's world championship boxing win. Screenwriter Kemp Powers takes entertaining creative liberties with what happened when the cameras weren’t on the iconic foursome to show what intimate conversations went down in that hotel room all that one night in Miami. What starts as a joyous celebration, shifts to a discussion of each icon’s contribution to the civil rights movement.
As played by the charismatic Odom Jr., Cooke is perhaps the most entertaining thread that runs through the entire production as he embodies the legendary musician from mannerisms to expressions, while Hodge demonstrates his full range of emotions in his stark portrayal of Brown -- much like when he played a death row inmate in Clemency.
Ben-Adir also offers a tour de force performance as a somber yet vulnerable Malcolm X. Recently playing President Barack Obama in Showtime’s The Comey Rule, Adir really falls into the passionate leader he’s portraying. Malcolm is often portrayed in the group as the most opinionated and instigator of most of the fictionalized drama, but if you are familiar with his work, it tracks.
As far as the cinematography, the colors and tones are vibrant throughout. Not just in the lounges that echo Havana, Cuba during the scenes where Odom is serenading the audience with Cooke’s classics, but the colors were just sharp and rich throughout, which is visually appealing to the eye.
Huge kudos goes to Regina King for choosing an entertaining and heartfelt screenplay as her first feature to direct. It was no doubt a feat to tackle an adaption of a stage play to the big screen, but King executed it with style and thoughtful creative expression. Although, what more do we expect from the Oscar and Emmy winner?
Powers’ dialogue-driven screenplay also deserves praise. Like Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Powers tells a fictional story surrounding real events, yet it’s the interpersonal communication between the four powerhouse icons that make it so fascinating. The myths personified on-screen from a personal and introspective perspective as related to race relations. The camaraderie, the brotherhood, the disagreements are not only exceptionally entertaining but also insightfully inspirational. It's what the world needs right now.
You can enjoy One Night in Miami on Amazon Prime and bring a little soul to your own home this December.