Regina King has been on a winning streak these last couple of years. Having won a supporting actress Oscar for her phenomenal role in If Beale Street Could Talk, as well as, winning 4 emmy’s for her roles in American Crime, Seven Seconds and most recently, Watchmen. Now King is looking to add her directorial feature debut to her list of recent successes and what a dream project to debut with.
(Actor Kingsley Ben-Adir at the UK premiere of One Night In Miami)
One Night In Miami tells a fictional account of the night Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, won his first World Heavy Weight Championship belt and how he chose to celebrate the night with; iconic Civil Rights activist, Malcolm X, R&B Soul Singer, Sam Cooke and NFL athlete turned actor, Jim Brown. Penned for the screen by its original playwright Kemp Powers, One Night In Miami is an insightful exploration of the Civil Rights Movements on the 60’s and these icon’s places within it, however it does explore some of its icons better than others.
Although there are four black icons in this film, the film focuses its attention predominately on Sam Cooke. The singer was massively successful and paved the way for black artists in the music industry, however with the Civil Rights Movements of the 60’s fronted by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, some could argue Sam Cooke could do more, and that’s exactly what Malcolm X stresses to him in this feature. The argument/ debate between Malcolm X and Sam Cooke is where the film is undeniably at its strongest and the dynamic and character arcs of both icons is mesmerizing from the start to its pitch perfect ending.
As well as, the writing of both Malcolm X and Sam Cooke’s characters being outstanding, so too are the performances from Kingsley Ben-Adir and Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr respectfully, so too are the performances from Eli Goree and Aldis Hodge who play Cassius Clay and Jim Brown respectfully. This being said, I have to stress just how phenomenal Leslie Odom Jr’s performance of Sam Cooke truly is. He totally steals the show with his impeccable mannerisms and accurate voice impersonation; he could easily take away a best supporting actor Oscar at the 2021 Academy awards.
This all being said, I can’t help but feel the film forgets about Cassius Clay and Jim Brown to accommodate its strong Malcolm X vs Sam Cooke debate. Cassius Clay is the backbone of what brings these men together and he is given a decent enough arc with his hesitance about converting to Islam, however I can’t help but feel it’s overshadowed and almost forgotten about because of the Cooke and Malcolm’s argument.
But unfortunately, the weakest element in the film is Jim Brown’s character. Aldis Hodge does a great job in the role, however, I feel that the film gives him little to work with and overall fails to justify Jim Brown’s relevance within the film. Yes, he is an icon like the other three; however there is little to no conflict with his character and thus he doesn’t have much of a reason to be there outside of being the voice of reason to the other three.
(LFF director, Tricia Tuttle and Actor Kingsley Ben-Adir at the UK premiere of One Night In Miami)
Overall, One Night In Miami is a riveting watch that gives insights into the Civil Rights Movements that are still profoundly relevant to this day. The film may under explore Jim Brown’s character and Cassius Clay’s religious hesitance, but it balances the scale with an Oscar worthy performance from Leslie Odom Jr and absorbing character arcs for, and a gripping debate between, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X. It’s too early to say what the 2021 Oscars will look like, but hopefully, a change is gonna come.
One Night In Miami will be released worldwide on Amazon Prime on January 15th 2021 with a limited release on Christmas Day 2020.