One Night in Miami
RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2020 (limited); January 15, 2021 (streaming)
MPAA RATING: R (language throughout; some violence)
Written by Kemp Powers based on his stage play and marking the feature film directorial debut of Regina King, One Night in Miami is a fascinating story that merges factual events with a bit of contrived “what if?” dialogue.
The premise is simple and yet the subject matter is complex. The story is focused on one specific night in 1964 when four celebrated icons who are friends gather in a Miami motel room following the boxing event during which Cassius Clay, who would soon be known as Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree) takes the heavy weight title away from Sonny Liston. Joining Clay for the post-boxing match celebration and pivotal discussions are civil rights advocate Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), singer/songwriter Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and NFL player Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge).
In its form as a film, director King has rightfully opened the story up to avoid cinematic claustrophobia, and yet the most dramatic and compelling components occur within the confines of the motel room where these four difference makers cover a wide range of topics, but ultimately seek their respective truths as to what they are doing to advance themselves and their cause as persons of color in the early 1960s.
Beyond being an excellent ensemble film, One Night in Miami allows each actor to shine through individual monologue and fast-paced dialogue. Flashbacks help tell the story of the struggles each has encountered, providing backstories and somewhat foreshadowing what is to become of their lives.
Regina King’s feature directorial debut is certain to be just the first of many impressive works to come from such an excellent filmmaker.