One Night in Miami review: With great power comes great responsibility

Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. in One Night in Miami.
Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. in One Night in Miami. Pic credit: Amazon Studios

In the best and worst of times, having a friend who challenges us to see our best selves is imperative. In One Night in Miami, director Regina King gives us a glance at a moment in time where four powerful men with endless potential, push each other to see their full potential within the heights of the Civil Rights movement.

And all this collides in a motel room in Miami as tensions between four legends– Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown– come to a head as they evaluate their influence during a consequential era.

Should you watch One Night in Maimi? Here is everything to know about the new film by Regina King.

One Night in Miami review

The film recounts a real-life occasion these four legends had together after Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) became Heavyweight Champion of the World. Just like in the movie, instead of going out and partying the night away, Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) wanted a more low-key affair with friends back at a Miami Hampton Motel.

The story finds creative flexibility, is the events that took place inside their small gathering. In other words, it’s unknown if this actual discussion between these men took place.

The movie itself originally is based on a play by Kemp Powers and the stage-like tone of the writing comes across on the screen as well. Mainly because of its use of a single location for almost its entire runtime.

Because of this, it makes for a compelling adaptation that can be an actor’s dream come true to chew scenery. And all four of these performers rise to the occasion.

Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man) gives a charismatic turn as the NFL superstar turned actor Jim Brown. It’s one of those performances that shows Hodge’s understanding of personifying a historical figure and not acting like them. Some actors can sometimes push this to the point of parody but Hodge has the right amount of nuance for us to see the powerhouse of Jim Brown.

Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami.
Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami. Pic credit: Amazon Studios

The breakout star of One Night in Miami is undoubtedly Eli Goree as Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali as the 22-year-old legend. Every single line of dialogue Goree is given breathes life into the famous boxer. And for such a vibrant young actor, he might be better at playing Ali than Will Smith.

The two actors that shine the most in One Night Miami are Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton) as Sam Cooke. The film hinges majorly on a tug of war between these two friends. Malcolm believes Cooke is wasting his talents by not putting his music towards the heart of the Civil Rights cause and Cooke thinks Malcolm is militant to a fault.

And the dialogue on paper, with the addition of the performances from Ben-Adir and Odom Jr., is some of the best acting we’ve seen all of last year.

What the film also acknowledges is that these four men were superheroes of their time holding their own unique power to influence and battle evil.

Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. in One Night in Miami.
Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. in One Night in Miami. Pic credit: Amazon Studios

Jim Brown conveyed charisma, strength, and swagger on the football field, and on the big screen. Malcolm X was a fierce wordsman and was relentless as a powerful speaker. Muhammad Ali was a fighter of wits and physicality in the ring, as well as in public. And Sam Cooke had a voice that could inspire butter to melt.

And the stageplay and the script dares to ask, “What if the Civil Rights Avengers met one night and pondered their role in making a change in the world?”

In a time where tensions are high and people get outraged over celebrities speaking their minds, it shows that even the greats probably weighed their careers versus voicing an opinion in the darkest hours.

But One Night in Miami also reminds us that when done right, that message can echo through generations.

As great as the film is, it’s not without some minor flaws. Because the movie is adapted from a stage play, there are moments where the movie is trying to insert scenes that give the pacing some speed bumps. Most of these sequences are meant to take us outside of the motel room to let the viewer stretch their legs. And while some it is needed, a couple of story beats could have been trimmed to keep the snappy rhythm.

Overall Thoughts

One Night in Miami is one of the best movies of the year (2020 that is)–maybe even the best of the year. The dialogue is sharply written, engrossing, and passionately performed by everyone involved.

And for a movie that stays in a motel room for almost its entire runtime, it packs a surprisingly emotional punch.

Besides a few pacing issues, it’s a perfect film that catapults director Regina King into Oscar territory.

Simply put, see this movie.

If you enjoyed this review check out our other reviews for Soul and Sound of Metal.

One Night in Miami is in select theaters today and will hit Amazon Prime on January 15.

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