Barnburner. It speaks volumes that the two best films of 2020 were based on plays (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night In Miami”). Both films directly address the Black experience in America, albeit at different cataclysmic moments in the country’s history.
Kemp Powers’s deep-dive 2013 play of the same title (“One Night In Miami” provides director Regina King with plenty of thematic substance to bring Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) to radiant life. King’s flawless direction is as the precise as the on-point performances of her talented actors.
I’m guessing that Regina King spent an extensive rehearsal period with her actors, considering how exquisitely each man fulfills the speech patterns and mannerisms of towering historic figures whose social influence continues to inspire people the world over. I can’t say enough good things about the sublime work that Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. perform in “One Night In Miami.” Truly great acting all around. Kudos to this amazing ensemble.
The set-up is a fictionalized meeting in 1964 between Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke at Miami’s Hampton House hotel, the only segregated hotel of the Civil Rights era still standing today. The contentious conversations that follow give insight to each pivotal Black leader’s psyche and ways of navigating an openly racist country that treats each man with suspicion. The film’s elegiac tableau hits all the right grace notes, supplied by Sam Cooke. You’ll feel the feeling right down to your toes.
Rated R. 114 mins.
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