One Night in Miami… film review (2021)

One Night in Miami… is a stellar acting showcase, elevated by an incredible screenplay about four African American icons expertly brought to life on the screen.

Regina King has been on an absolute tear recently, so hearing a few months back about her directorial debut being One Night in Miami…, I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. King is widely known for her acting credentials, most notably winning the “Best Actress” Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk, but she has never directed a film before. She has been behind the camera for numerous TV shows though, such as This is Us, Shameless, and The Good Doctor. I’m fairly certain One Night in Miami… won’t be the last film she directs either.

Based on the play of the same name, One Night in Miami is based on true events, but the main plot of the film is a fictionalized meeting between four icons in Black history, those being Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.). An aspect I thoroughly enjoyed about the movie, which drew me in, was seeing real life events transpiring on the screen, such as Cassius Clay’s boxing matches against Henry Cooper and Sonny Liston. I feel it perfectly sets the stage for everything else to follow.

Once they get into the Miami hotel room however, I feel this is when the film is at its strongest. All actors deliver incredibly convincing and career defining performances. Each scene sells you with their portrayals of these legendary people, while also telling a very compelling story. Kemp Powers’ screenplay makes it feel as if all of this actually happened. As far as we know, it could’ve very well gone the way it’s portrayed in the movie, which makes the film all the more impressive.

I truly think Ben-Adir steals the show as Malcolm X, offering a different side to the man history knows. Although an activist, the film also shows him to be someone looking for the best in others and how many people have specific gifts and talents they can tap into in order to fully reach their potential and make a difference in the world. Ben-Adir plays him to be deeply passionate about what he stands for and getting his message across always felt important in the movie. I was very impressed with Goree as well, getting the accent down almost perfectly, as well as Ali’s boxing movements and skill-set in the ring. Credit has to be given to Odom Jr., who’s singing talent is so great, he gives Cooke, respectfully, a run for his money. Lastly, Hodge as Brown is also great. In many ways, he’s the voice of reason in the film, but he’s also someone who demands respect and it’s evident in the movie with his interactions with everyone else.

The story touches on a variety of topics, including racism, activism, and societal tensions I feel are still extremely relevant in today’s environment. I feel it’s always important to get a different point of view from people who come from different walks of life. It’s evident each of them feel a bit differently about specific topics that are discussed in the film, while also not completely disagreeing. At the end of the day, they still have the same goal and have faced similar experiences in their lives. As a viewer, it feels personal and relatable in some ways and I feel most who do watch it will have similar sentiments. It’s already one of the best films of 2021 and I think these four actors should get some consideration come awards season.

Score: A

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