ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI (2020) – My rating: 8/10

One Night in Miami is a drama directed by Regina King in her feature film directorial debut. The screenplay is by Kemp Powers, based on his stage play of the same name. The film is a fictional account of a real-life meeting in February of 1964 between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali (formally known as Cassius Clay), Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke at the Hampton House.  They were initially there to celebrate Ali’s surprise title win over Sonny Liston. Significant conversations about inequality toward Blacks as well as their personal future paths were discussed.  I thought One Night in Miami was well done, kudos to Regina King.

One Night in Miami opens in 1963, with Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) almost losing a boxing match to Henry Cooper at Wembley Stadium in London. Meanwhile, at the Copacabana in New York City, soul singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) suffers through performing in front of a bigoted, all-white audience. Returning home to Georgia, NFL player Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) is received by a family friend Mr. Carlton (Beau Bridges) on his vast plantation. Carlton bestows praises on “the great Jim Brown,” but when Brown offers to help Carlton move some furniture, Carlton reminds Brown that “you know we don’t allow niggers in the house.” Elsewhere, Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) upon returning home from a trip, discusses his plans to leave the Nation of Islam with his wife, Betty (Joaquina Kalukango).

On February 25, 1964, the four men are all in Miami for Clay’s title bout against Sonny Liston. Malcolm X meets with Clay in a hotel room before the fight, and the two pray in a traditional Islamic fashion. That night, Brown is a ringside commentator, and Cooke and Malcolm X are in the crowd as Clay upsets Liston, making him the world heavyweight champion. Afterward, Malcolm X invites the other three men to his motel room. Their hopes of a party are squashed when Malcolm X makes it clear they are the only ones he invited. He wants to spend some time reflecting on their accomplishments, but tensions between him and Cooke arise. Malcolm X thinks Cooke has sold out the black community by pandering to white audiences, and Cooke refuses to feel guilty for his success. Clay informs the men of his plans to announce his conversion to the Nation of Islam, causing more tension. Brown discusses his plans to become a film actor, and wonders if it will go smoothly.

So I’ve given you insight into what One Night in Miami is about.  The movie is mostly shot in a room at the Hampton House focusing on the conversations between the four men. Their interaction is truly insightful and in true “Cast Away” fashion, Regina King has directed a successful film which given the modest amount of territory probably was not easy to do.  I came away feeling like I knew these four Black icons much better than I ever did.  You will see as the film progresses, each of the four will bring conclusion to the story as they work out their future via conversation and faith.  I highly recommend One Night in Miami, which is a mixture of fiction and truth.  Sam Cooke singing “A Change is gonna Come” was both emotional and timely. FYI:  Beau Bridges’ character, Mr. Carlton is based on a real acquaintance of Jim Brown, who made him stay on the porch of his house and would not let him inside because he is Black. This is depicted in the film and is also written about in Brown’s autobiography. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 98% based on 319 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads: “A hauntingly powerful reflection on larger-than-life figures, One Night in Miami finds Regina King in command of her craft in her feature directorial debut.” King also earned a Best Director nomination at the 78th Golden Globe Awards. One Night in Miami is worth watching and streams on Prime Video — Check It Out!

[ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI is Oscar-nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best: Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Original Song — Totaling 3 Nominations]

 

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