I don’t know what I expected from this. Regina King is deservedly one of my favourite actresses of the last decade, so clearly I had high hopes for it. Was I disappointed? Let’s see…
One Night In Miami is based on a stage play of the same name by Kemp Powers, who also lent his hand to writing the screenplay for this film adaptation. (Side note: Powers also co-wrote last year’s Pixar smash Soul, so you can probably grasp just how talented this guy is.) Rooted in a fictionalised meeting between four African American legends (Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, and the NFL’s Jim Brown), it tells the story of how they met after Clay defeated Sonny Lister in a hotel room. Whilst they believe they are going to a party in the room, it is all a ruse orchestrated by Malcolm X to gather the men in order to discuss their roles in the Civil Rights Movement and his allegiance to the Nation of Islam.
A rarity for me: I have to mention the movie’s soundtrack first and foremost. This jazz piano soundtrack is e v e r y t h i n g. Every single note in the score is perfectly positioned, injecting mood and precise emotion into each sequence. Of course, you’d expect as much in a film that portrays the late, great soul singer Sam Cooke, but still. It is outstanding, as is the voice of Leslie Odom Jr. I struggle to think of another actor who could have played Mr. Cooke so convincingly.
Whilst we’re on the cast, each one of these actors is so perfectly cast and every one of them brings a natural sense of their real life counterpart to their role. Who stood out to me, however, was Eli Goree as Cassius Clay. He brings such spirit and playfulness to his character, and I simply could not take my eyes off him. Hopefully he continues to be cast in such meaty roles in the future because this is wonderful from him.
So, onto the dreaded verdict of Regina King’s efforts. Thankfully, King does a phenomenal job of setting the tone in her debut feature film as director, so everyone – myself included – can breathe a sigh of relief. Everything from the costuming and set decoration to the way she directs her actors to the framing of the shots is perfect – very well done from her.
It’s kind of slowly paced and relatively little happens in all honesty, but this is most certainly an extremely impressive piece of performance art. Although it does feel quite stage-y at times, King generally does a good job at making this screenplay feel more cinematic than like a stage play, utilising some fabulously well thought out camera angles that create a beautiful sense of depth.
Although very little happens when it comes down to it, once everything culminates into ‘the big argument’, the best comes out of these actors. I’ll be absolutely gobsmacked if Kingsley Ben-Adir doesn’t get some serious nods in awards season this year, although all four of the leads deserve it.
Yes, it’s a lot of men just talking in a room. However, the outstanding performances and brilliant direction warrant such a high rating here, and if you have the patience to get through the build-up, you will have to admit that this has Oscar nominations written all over it.
One Night In Miami… is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.
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