Monday, 18 January 2021

One Night in Miami (Movie Review)


Regina King makes her feature film directorial debut in One Night in Miami, a film that seemed to be garnering nothing but praise ever since it made its debut at the Venice Film Festival last September. Based on a stage play written by Kemp Powers, the movie was noted for being the first one in the festival's history to be helmed by an African-American woman, where it eventually got named the runner up for its People's Choice Award. 

All that is to say that the movie had been on my radar for quite some time now. I even flirted with the idea of waiting to see it before compiling my list of Top 10 Movies of 2020, but decided I might as well consider it for my 2021 list instead. And despite getting a limited release in theaters last Christmas, I didn't get an opportunity to see the movie until it got released on Amazon Prime Video this past weekend.

Set on the historic night of Muhammad Ali's heavyweight title victory against Sonny Liston, the film explores a celebratory meeting between him and three other African-American legends of the time: Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Malcolm X. But rather than spend the night drinking and cavorting with women, he soon discovers that Malcolm had other more important plans.

It was to be a night of reflection, with each man expected to look back on their accomplishments up until that point. And by so doing, gain some insight about their place in the present day struggle of African Americans. But tensions soon begin to rise amongst the men when Malcolm accuses Sam of not using his influence and power to help that struggle, even as he grows increasingly paranoid that there were people out to get him.

One Night in Miami is a beautiful slice of alternative history that is brought to life by some powerhouse performances. All four actors got to shine in their respective roles, but it was perhaps Leslie Odom Jnr. that could be regarded the standout. His portrayal of Sam Cooke was every bit as electrifying as his role in Hamilton, and he had his full acting and singing chops on display.

I'll be remiss if I fail to also mention Regina King's direction. The woman has been in quite a few critically acclaimed movies over the years, and was most recently seen in the brilliant Watchmen TV show on HBO. But here she proves that her talent extends behind the camera as well. And the fact that her movie was so grounded in history lends it a sense of authenticity seldom seen in such films.

One Night in Miami is a must-watch for history buffs. The movie definitely had all the trappings of a stage play adaptation, with its dialogue heavy screenplay and sparse location changes. But it never truly felt confined by those origins. The movie is a definite shoo-in for one of the Best Picture nominations at the Oscar's later this year, and it stands as one of the best films of the year thus far. 

2 comments:

  1. There are so many moments in history most people don't know about, like this.

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    1. I really dug the historical bits of the movie, but it would've been even wilder if all four legends actually got to meet and discuss the racial tensions of the time.

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