One Night in Miami review: a successful cinematic experiment

Regina King’s sublime 2021 cinematic experiment, One Night in Miami, asks the question of what it truly means to be Black and successful in a world that fundamentally opposes it.

Dominic Hancock
16th February 2021
Image: YouTube
Whilst fictional in its setting, the story of Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr), Malcolm X (Kinglsey Ben-Adir), and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) gathering to celebrate the victory of their friend Cassius Clay’s (Eli Goree) ‘King of the World’ title winning moment in February of 1964, provides a raw and unique insight into the zeitgeist of one of the most important civil rights movements in human history.

Although the film willingly reflects on each individual’s success, it is as if an ominous cloud still hangs over each of them. Cassius cannot emerge from under the thumb of his traditional, authoritarian coach, whilst Cooke and Malcolm X experience the difficulties of expectation that fame thrusts upon them; one performing in soulless, white majority venues whilst the other fears for his future as he prepares to leave the nation of Islam.

[T]he amalgamation of popular images and references still oozes class and raw beauty

All is brought to a head when NFL star Jim Brown is simultaneously lorded over by a white well-wisher but refused entry to the house due to the colour of his skin. Kemp Powers' script ultimately articulates such a crescendo of tension around the subject that the viewer is left shocked at the fundamental nature of the problems each character still faces. 

Image: YouTube

King’s is still a truly uplifting picture however, as the amalgamation of popular images and references still oozes class and raw beauty, with frequent Shakespearean-esque monologues standing opaque against the monotone background of the motel room setting. This film, unapologetically, places its characters in impossible positions, and asks them to cope. How? In the words of Clay, it’s a start to be ‘young, black, righteous, famous and unapologetic’.    

Rating: 4/5

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