By: Amanda Guarragi
One night, in 1960s Miami, four men come together from different professional backgrounds to discuss important social issues. Those men were Malcolm X (Kinglsey Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.). The majority of the film takes place in a motel room and the dialogue exchanged was gripping because of the incredible chemistry from the cast. The film is directed by Regina King and it is based on the stage play One Night in Miami written by Kemp Powers.
The structure of this film worked really well because it showed each character separately, living their lives and then they come together in Miami. That one night, the night Cassius Clay became the champ and beat Sonny Liston was a special night. Not only because Clay won, or Malcolm X joined him in front of the press, but the aftermath of that night and what it gave the world. It is a very simple film but the screenplay by Powers dives into many conversations and holds your attention the whole way through. The chemistry between the four of them was incredible and their performances were great.
The conversations had between Sam Cooke and Malcolm X were interesting to listen to because they both approached Black power in a different way. Cooke wanted to learn the system and understand how to turn it inside out from the inside track, especially being in the music industry. Whereas Malcolm X wanted their community to unify and stand against the oppressor. Both ideals are right in their own way and it definitely created tension between the two of them. There were such strong moments from all four characters but Eli Goree stole the spotlight with his portrayal of Cassius Clay. We all know that Clay was cocky and outspoken but old footage doesn’t do him justice, so Goree’s performance was great to watch.
Regina King’s direction was subtle and effective. She took the stage play and made it her own. It felt effortless as everything flowed from scene to scene, even light conversations to deeper ones. Even though the film takes place in one room for majority of the runtime, it’s the dialogue that holds you and the way King focused on her actors. She brought out such fantastic performances and the way she moved them through each scene was strong. Plays that are adapted for the screen can sometimes be tedious and very static in their atmosphere but King explores every aspect of this one night.
One Night in Miami is a very strong directorial debut for Regina King. It highlights the Black experience and the history of these four important figures. The conversations shared between them are always necessary, even if they’re hard to discuss. Hearing them discuss their own experiences and what they wish for the future was very important. If you enjoy films with heavy dialogue and intellectual conversations about society then this is something that you will enjoy.