One Night in Miami is a fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s.
Our film opens with Cassius Clay toying with his opponent in the ring like he always did, and boom he takes a shot, and down goes Clay. This leads to the transition to us getting a live look at Sam Cooke getting ready to do a concert with resistance before he performs and after. After this, we see Jim Brown visit a ‘friends’ house and start with a beautiful conversation with it, ending with Brown offering Mr. Carlton to help move furniture, which leads to him saying ‘You know we don’t allow Black people in our house.’ Last, we see our introduction to Malcolm X and a conversation with his wife.
As a result of all of this, Regina King (director) and Kemp Powers (writer) do a fantastic job of setting the tone for the world’s culture while understanding how great these individuals are in their respective careers.
Before I get any further, I would like to mention throughout the first thirty minutes of the movie we get a lot of Cassius Clay, played by Eli Goree. I am not a fan of the casting, and I understand this was the early stages of Clay, and he was at the beginning of that flamboyant part of who he becomes in “Ali”, but I didn’t feel he embodied Clay/Ali that good.
Next, the set up is here for the meeting of which the movie is about after Ali takes down Sonny Liston and wins the championship. Between Ali converting to Muslim, Brown thinking of doing movies, and Malcolm challenging Sam for performing for the white men. However, the blowback between them all is starting to get heated and personal. Each believes they are fighting for representation in different ways.
As the battle ensues, we see some powerful exchanges between Sam and Malcolm, which leads me to this point: Leslie Odom Jr. and Kinglsey Ben-Adir go toe to toe here, and it is remarkable. You cling to every word, each of them says as the message they convey is vital and essential. The acting between these two in this particular scene is impactful and will be remembered for years to come.
In the meantime, our films undertone is similar to what our country is battling right now. One thing of note is the fact that Brown kept mentioning that each of them represents something different for their community, and the likes of Malcolm X tear down those who don’t see it the way he does. I feel like this is a massive underlining of the issues that face this country today. Instead of looking at one another differently because the way we utilize our voice is different, we should be standing side-by-side in how we want change.
Finally, One Night in Miami is one long conversation with four influential individuals from four different walks of life with the same goal, but none can see what is in front of them. The topic is raw, and the words are real, and from start to finish, you are engrossed in every word these men say.
I would be remiss not to talk more in-depth about my love for Leslie Odom Jr. in this movie. His performance as Sam Cooke was spectacular on every level. The swagger, the body language, the emotion behind his words, he was Sam Cooke and the final four-five minutes of this film, I re-watched ten times because of the powerful performance that ended the movie. Please give me a Sam Cooke movie starring Leslie Odom Jr. asap.
Regina King’s feature directorial debut is a good one, and I think the best is yet to come for her. Terence Blanchard and Tami Anwar need to be recognized for their fantastic work within the score and cinematography.
Leslie Odom Jr. leads the way with a powerful performance in One crazy Night in Miami.
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.