One Night in Miami is the directorial debut of Regina King and has recevied six Critics Choice Awards nominations.
The time is February 1964. A memorable meeting takes place. The fictional film about raw emotion is based on a true story.
It’s a reflection on larger-than-life figures, four icons of sports, music, and activism who got together one night to celebrate one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Cassius Clay defeated heavy weight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Hall to become the heavyweight champion of the world. Clay celebrated with three buddies: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge).
The film is about one night during the racial tension of the ’60’s and a meeting of minister Malcolm X who summoned them together for more than raising a glass. The three famous names could be leaders for the black cause. Malcolm wants to preach a wake up call; to no longer sit on the fence of fame and join the cause for the black rights cause.
“One Night in Miami” is a behind the scenes, heavy-dialogued look at who these men are, could be, what they're willing to do and how 'they' see things.
The film is mainly set in a Hampton House motel room. Rather than an after party with women, Malcolm has the men gather at the motel to discuss black life, black responsibility and political action.
Malcolm wants them to help take a stand and tries to convince them with every emotional word. He talks of the struggles of their people. “Black people are dying everyday and a line has got to be drawn in the stand that says you either stand on this side with us, or the other side” says Malcolm X. With a truly outstanding adapted screenplay by Kemp Powers, the script is the star of the movie (amongst many great starring roles)
It shows the men as real people, not just celebrities in a time when racism ruled each of their lives. The famous names all want one thing; freedom from their jobs run by white bosses and jobs that try to rule them with the invisible but prevalent banner of racism but Malcolm tries to get them to find freedom and work toward it for their cause.
The film is like being a fly on the wall. Dialogue not exact as it is not a true story per line but makes you feel like this might have been happening on this night which did happen.
Malcolm tries to convince Cooke and the boys to take another direction and fight for the black cause asking and pushing them to use their black talents to help the cause. “How much do the oppressed have to do before they can be recognized as human beings” says Malcolm.
The film shows the men talking, bantering, hearing, sharing, lecturing, arguing.
"Brother you could move mountains without lifting a finger” says Malcolm to Cooke. "You brothers are bright and out shining future" he adds. He explains how going after white approval is not what is needed and they should work toward helping their own people.
Rivalry and emotions rise between Malcolm and Cooke. “You’re not helping the cause” says Malcolm X to Cooke. “He’s (Sam) is the only one that white people seem to like, and that would be you” says Malcom. "We are fighting for our lives” says Malcolm. "It's too important a time to be wasting time. It's a time to find your voice to push our cause forward."
Malcolm tells Cooke, that with his fame as a singer of the day that “You could be the loudest voice of us all. What you don't get brother Sam is the majority of our people didn't make it."
Malcolm tells Sam one vital line about not doing enough for his people “You will never be loved by the people you try so hard to ignore.”
Clay adds to the night as this was the exact time that he announced he's becoming a Muslim. This is the night he proudly announces it to the media and the public.
Leslie Odom Jr., is absolutely outstanding as Sam Cooke between his acting and singing. Eli Goree nails Cassius Clay with the speech pattern and joy for life. Kingsley Ben-Adir is superb as Malcolm X. And at times Aldis Hodge feels just like Jim Brown thought they look nothing alike in face and physique.
Though not shown in the film, but in less than a year of that night in Miami, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X were killed individually in a Los Angeles motel and a Harlem ballroom.
This movie is strong.
Meaningful and poignant.
Great first time directorial debut hands down.