The Stream: Patience is required as the film ramps up, but it will grab you.
The Big Screen: Kingsley Ben-Adir. Kingsley Ben-Adir. Kingsley Ben-Adir.
The Final Bill: An outstanding cast playing American icons make talking about important ideas make this a must see.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Regina King
Writers: Kemp Powers
Stars: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom, Jr.
Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes
Platform: Amazon Prime Video (Release Date: January 15, 2021)
Well, Streamers, it’s been an eventful first week of 2021; but, I want to tell you about a movie I was able to see in October as part of the Middleburg Film Festival. It’s One Night in Miami directed by the Academy Award-winning actress, Regina King. One Night in Miami opened in select theaters on Christmas, but it will be more accessible when it premieres on Amazon Prime Video on January 15, 2021. The synopsis of the film is as follows: on the night of February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown meet up in a motel room in Miami after Clay’s defeated against Sonny Liston in a shocking bout. This is a fictionalized account of the conversations and tensions that brimmed in that room before these iconic men went their separate ways.
One Night in Miami is Regina King’s feature film debut as a director, and she does remarkable work. The film is based on a play by the screenwriter, Kemp Powers, who also co-wrote and co-directed, Soul. King takes what Powers has written and what could be a static situation – four men in a room talking – and she broadened the scope by showing the adversity each of these men encounters prior to this monumental night and she allows the action of the film to spill out from just that motel room. Besides, the ideas that they are grappling with such as racism, religious affiliation, the tension between art and commerce are not ones to be confined to one space. King has great control over the tone, which is infused with energy and can even be funny at times in spite of the serious subject matters. The sets, the costumes, the music and the cast have all come together to bring this film to life.
When you have to play these American icons, this cast has incredibly big shoes to fill. Each actor steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park. Please remember the name Kingsley Ben-Adir – this man is the real deal. Ben-Adir plays Malcolm X with all of the intelligence, seriousness and swagger one might expect; but, there is also such humor and vulnerability that is surprising. He’s great as one of four in the core ensemble, but he stands out like no other. His screen presence is nothing short of magnetic. Malcolm X had charisma. Kingsley Ben-Adir taps into his own charisma. Leslie Odom, Jr. plays Sam Cooke. Of course,if you’ve seen Hamilton then you know that he can sing, but his portrayal of Cooke is very grounded and passionate. He gets to be the main foil to Malcolm X and he holds his own against Ben-Adir. Eli Goree is another breakout star in the role of Cassius Clay on the cusp of becoming the Greatest. Goree has such bounding youthful energy that gives Clay a sensitivity and thoughtfulness that is refreshing. Aldis Hodge fills out the four man ensemble playing Jim Brown, who is the steady voice of calm and reason. Hodge gets the best scene prior to being in the motel room and he makes the best of it. It is so amazing to see these up-and-coming black actors get great roles and show what they can do. I can’t wait to see more of these guys in whatever comes next for them.
When it all comes together, everything that Regina King did to put One Night in Miami together, the dialogue and story that Kemp Powers wrote and the performances that not only the principle four actors give but every minor character as well make this movie one of the best to have premiered in 2020. It’s amazing we had to wait until 2021 for it to be more widely accessible.
If you don’t already have your big box of popcorn ready for January 15, 2021 when One Night in Miami is released on Amazon Prime, I don’t know what you are doing.