In her directorial debut, Regina King unites four African American greats in a night of drama and introspection.

Today, you don’t see a lot of films that celebrate African American history while also presenting it in a manner that teaches the viewer while simultaneously pushing them to think about the struggles that African Americans go through while living in a segregated and white dominated society — especially in a time like 1960s America.

Taking place in the backdrop of sunny Miami, which is going through the civil rights movement, “One Night in Miami” unites Cassius Clay, boxer and heavyweight champion played by Eli Goree, Sam Cooke  played by Leslie Odom Jr., singer songwriter Jim Brown — who brought the world hits like “You Send Me” — played by NFL Superstar Aldis Hodge and Malcom X, played by Kingsley Ben-Adir. 

Set in 1964, right after a young Cassius Clay adopted the Muslim religion and became known as Muhommad Ali, Ali joins Malcom X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke in a celebratory night after an unexpected victory against Sonny Listing that rendered him as the Heavy Weight champion. 

In their hotel room, they discuss what it means to be Black and successful. While most of them agree that they are in very favorable positions in their communities, they all have differing opinions on what the future holds for them and what they should do in their respective positions of power. 

This film is more than just a meeting of great minds, it tells the story in a nuanced perspective. Each of the four have their own motives and ideas which can sometimes conflict with each other. Although it’s an interesting way of telling their story, it might not be for everyone and may take some paying close attention to from the viewer in order to fully enjoy.

With that being said, besides a couple of scenes, the setting primarily takes place within their hotel room. This lack of setting change feels dragged out towards the end of the film. And while the captivating performances are enough to keep the viewer engaged, not too much happens. 

Nonetheless, the acting in the film is superb and worth noting. With one of the most powerful performances of the bunch,  Kingsley Ben-adir’s portrayal of Malcom X is one not to be missed. The way his speech patterns and mannerisms matched X’s real life public persona, while still managing to add his own flair to the role, made for captivating scenes and was often the driving force of each scene to it’s dramatic climax.

The set and costume design was also extremely well done. The characters’ sharp wardrobe really showcased each character and who they are. The viewer is treated from time to time with a few beautiful drone shots of the entire world that the filmmakers have created — it’s a treat to look at whenever the scene wanders out from it’s singular driven setting. 

This is a great film to watch if you want to see what would happen if four great minds were to be put into one room. However, for those who are not looking for movies that are dialog heavy, then this is probably not the film for you. Although, I do urge at least a single watch as it is a story that doesn’t come up often in today’s narratives. 

Availability : Available to stream on Amazon Prime

Title: One Night in Miami

Star Rating: Four out of five stars

Good:

  • Powerful dialogue and storytelling
  • Captivating Performances 
  • Great cinematography

Bad:

  • Setting is static and not too much happens
  • Film can drag on towards the end
  • Very dialogue heavy. Great for some, not for others
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