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MOVIES: One Night in Miami... - Review (LFF 2020)

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Regina King is here, and you aren't ready. Actress turned director, One Night in Miami… is a powerhouse of a stage-play adaption that breezes through its two hours in an intelligent, thought-provoking way that awards the traditional Oscar-baity trappings of the genre in favour of a passionate film that feels incredibly well produced. The film opens in the boxing ring, pitting Cassius Clay against Sonny Liston, and set in the aftermath of that fight, the action soon shifts focus to Miami in favour of telling the story of the meeting of four iconic celebrities each with their own distinct and clear background. Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown are about to meet on one fictionalized account of a real night, and history is about to change…

Electric and bustling full of life punctuated from a Sam Cooke-fuelled soundtrack, with even room for Bob Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm, One Night in Miami… is a dialogue-heavy movie that shines thanks to the powerful central performances that the film has to offer. Eli Goree proves to be the best actor from Riverdale to have gone onto features almost instantly with a commanding performance as Cassius Clay in legitimately one of the best roles of the year. His performance as Clay makes for a good counterpart to Kingsley Ben-Adir’s more reserved Malcolm X. Leslie Odom Jr. convincingly sells Sam Cooke – whilst Aldis Hodge continues to demonstrate just how good of a year all of The Invisible Man cast are having, excelling in One Night in Miami… as Jim Brown. It’s the perfect million-dollar quartet of an ensemble that allows the actors to showcases the differences of opinion that the people they are portraying held, whilst also showcasing their similiarites. The verbal battles about the characters helping their community are touching and passionate, and it’s rare that One Night in Miami… manages to miss a beat.

If there was one weakness to this film it’s the fact that its origins as a stage play are made a bit too clear, and the set-pieces for big speeches feel a little too choreographed. But given that it’s a stage-play adaption rather than a feature original it’s hard to critique One Night in Miami… purely for that. Its two-hour runtime goes by in a breeze and although it’s one of the longer films at this London Film Festival, I didn’t feel its runtime in the slightest. I kept wondering whether or not there was going to be another thirty minutes by the time it ended which I would have quite happily sat through, which speaks volumes to just how good this film really is.

You won’t want to miss this one. Hopefully it’ll be an awards contender – its performances deserve at least one nomination between them, if not more.

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