Arriving at Prime last weekend, Regina King’s directorial debut was an impressive start to this film year
“One Night in Miami” is a true story of the meeting between four Black icons in 1964, based on a 2013 stage play by writer Kemp Powers that creates night fiction in a historic context.
The arrangements were so slow that the four men gathered in a small motel room in Miami. Then it becomes a compelling lesson in the internalization of the struggle for the civil rights movement.
After the context-setting prologue, we arrived in Miami on February 25, 1964, the night 22-year-old Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) beat Sonny Liston to become world heavyweight boxing champion.
Clay’s friend and NFL superstar Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) calls the fight the night and has planned a post-victory celebration, but Clay invites him to a more modest meeting in a hotel room where Black Muslim friend and pastor Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) is staying. .
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Another friend, soul legend Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), first arrives at a modest room at a black-friendly motel on Jim Crow South, away from Cooke’s swanky room in Miami’s Fontainebleau, which he booked. Manager. On the eve of the celebration, Malcolm brings out ice cream, and the conversation becomes an examination of the present and future of the Black American.
For director Regina King’s first foray behind the camera in a feature film, she’s unafraid to tackle something so ambitious. And the fantastic uniform appearance of his collection shows the benefits of having one great actor guiding the appearances of others.
Goree and Ben-Adir step up to the greatest challenge in the portrayal of the iconic characters Will Smith and Denzel Washington have each portrayed on screen.
Malcolm Ben-Adir also advised young Clay to convert to Islam, while enduring his own disillusionment with The Nation of Islam and its leader Elijah Muhammad.
Goree displays Clay’s insolence and, just as often, the recklessness of the tension that arises between his friends, as Ben-Adir brings up Malcolm’s awareness of encouraging everyone in the room to use their voice for the greater good.
Hodge’s Brown and Odom Jr.’s Cooke are navigating their own successes and re-evaluating them and finding ways to control the term.
Powers, who also wrote and directed Pixar’s latest “Soul,” put white racism at the edge of the story as a cloud hanging over reality. But “One Night in Miami” is a larger examination of the struggles of black Americans to carve out their own identity in a country that has struggled for centuries to deny them their right to define their lives their way.
“Power means a world in which we are safe to be ourselves,” Clay said. “To look the way we want. Think the way we want. Without having to answer anyone to it.”
That self-determination, the cornerstone of the so-called American Dream, was never evenly distributed among its citizens, as the film vividly reveals.
Odom Jr., out of “Hamilton” fame, somehow managed to stand out in the film full of them. Tensions rose among friends when Malcolm cited Cooke as catering for his performances to a white audience, as Cooke got defensive about his own attempts to game the music industry to benefit himself and other black artists.
The push and pull of four friends who happen to all be legends as they challenge and lift one another is what makes “Miami” sing.
The final part of the film is so intense that it tends to make it feel off-balance, but Regina King has made a must-see film that is likely to remain one of the year’s best.
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