One Night in Miami

Showing on Amazon Prime Video.

Directed by Regina King with a screenplay based on his own play by Kemp Powers. One Night in Miami is a fictional account of the night in 1964 that Cassius Clay, soon to be Mohammed Ali, becomes world champion for the first time and celebrates in the company of three friends and prominent black figures Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. However, rather than the party the men had hoped for, what they get is Malcolm X taking the opportunity to encourage Brown and Cooke, in particular, to do more to support the struggle for civil rights in the way Clay, who the next day will announce joining the Nation of Islam. What starts as a celebratory night soon descends into an evening of recriminations and arguments.

The challenge with bringing a stage play to the screen is to do it while maintaining the benefits of a play but avoiding the stagey feel. One Night in Miami under King’s direction does that well, while at times the stage roots show overall it delivers a cinematic experience. Our four leads all provide compelling versions of their famous characters. Kingsley Ben-Adir carries most of the story as Malcolm X struggling to balance the bigger fight with his own internal battles with the Nation of Islam and their controversial leader Elijah Mohammed, Aldis Hodge brings a calm authority as the older Jim Brown, while Eli Goree’s Clay and Leslie Odom Jr. as Cooke bring a wisdom and energy as young, powerful black men.

I found this a really intriguing story, a fascinating snapshot of 1960’s America and the, what seems on-going, fight for equality and rights in the United States and beyond. The four leads are all compelling and hugely watchable while avoiding slipping into mimicry. Under Regina King’s direction the story takes time to make its points while maintaining a pace that keeps you engaged.

One Night in Miami, while loosely based on “true event” still delivers a fascinating insight into the 1960’s and with hugely enjoyable performances is well worth a watch.

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