It is no wonder why the stage play, One Night in Miami, racked up awards after its 2013 premiere, and now a Regina King-directed film adaptation has everyone talking. Written by Kemp Powers, you experience the conversations taken place during a meeting with Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) in a racially segregated Miami hotel.
History comes alive during the performances of these four actors. It is not clear if these men did actually meet that night after Cassius Clay's win against Sonny Liston but watching the film unfold and the historical accounts we know of these men makes you believe it is possible. The events that we do know are true from reading biographies are not necessarily chronological but it doesn't matter. The film draws you in and leaves you wanting more as you revel in the openness of the conversation void white America.
Being a black man in America doesn't change because you are famous. In fact, the film shows that the responsibility and expectations are much greater. What we definitely learn is that the monster of racism and injustice hasn't changed much.
Malcolm X has doubts with his future at the Nations of Islam just as Cassius Clay is planing to announce that he will covert to Muslim under the direction of Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X is happy about the transition but wants Cassius to join forces with him. Goree is almost believable as the champ. He nails the voice and lots of the moves that we have seen played out. No one can forget that he is the greatness and pretty.
Ben-Adir grabbed the powerful parts of Malcom X that we cherish. A true family man, his love of black people and the desire to erase their struggles. Despite the trouble that is personally brewing in his life, he maintains a balance while showing the other men the power they have. Of course, they just want to party but he presses them to see that “there is no room for anyone to stand on the fence anymore”. In a heated exchange with Sam Cooke, he gives a wake up call that we have the “power to move mountains”.And later Sam Cooke does just that.
It will be hard to look at Leslie Odom Jr and not think of Sam Cooke. His mannerism and the influence that gospel and American song plays in his life has been duly noted. Very few know that Sam Cooke was such a shrewd business man behind the scenes who was no nonsense. Odom Jr set out to be the best Sam Cooke he could and he delivered.
Aldis Hodge as “I'm Jim Motherfucking Brown”, reminds us that even the worlds greatest NFL player can have doubts and not always feel strong. We see how Black men aren't often ready to share these feelings. The scene between Mr. Carlton (Beau Bridges) and Jim is a direct reflection of how racism is often hidden behind a smile or a pat on the back.
This film is set in 1964 but so much of it is relevant today. Black people in America are often expected to change our behavior and speech to fit in or be accepted by our white counterparts. One Night In Miami does not dance around these issues but allows the characters to teach the audience much needed lessons on black humanity.
“A photo never lies” and the imagery throughout the film shows the brotherhood that exist between the characters. The actors together use this what-if scenario in a way that should make America take note. We are taken on a public journey into conversations that are often only had in private.
One Nigh in Miami is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video. The film also features original song “Speak Now” written by Leslie Odom Jr. and Sam Ashford, and performed by Leslie Odom Jr., ABKCO will release the official One Night in Miami original soundtrack album in conjunction with the film.
Directed by Regina King
Written by Kemp Powers
Based on the Stage Play “One Night In Miami…” by Kemp Powers
Produced by Jess Wu Calder, Keith Calder, Jody Klein
Starring Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr., Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson with Beau Bridges and Lance Reddick