There’s something powerful in depicting a real figure in art. Whether it’s through a biography, a painting, or a film, art can encapsulate somebody and their values beautifully. Their passions, their goals, their likes, their dislikes. Art allows people to learn and become inspired by incredible minds, therefore becoming enriched all the same.
Regina King, herself an incredible thinker, knows this better than everyone else. In One Night in Miami, written by and based on the play by Kemp Powers, King shares the story of four Black powerhouse trailblazers during the Civil Rights era. And while the story is fictional, the importance of these men still shine through. With incredible, show-stopping performances and intense dialogue about civil rights and Black empowerment, One Night in Miami is meditative, passionate, and immensely entertaining.
Four Legends, One Movie
As an actress herself, Regina King emphasizes performance. More specifically, having a great ensemble showcase their acting chops and chemistry. The four leads, portraying Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke, are all absolutely fantastic. Not only do they all play off one another, they truly capture the people they are depicting.
Kingsley Ben-Adir has the perfect determination, stoicism, and even uncertainty of Malcolm. Eli Goree brings enthusiasm to Muhammed (Cassius Clay actually. This takes place before his conversion to Islam). Aldis Hodge has likable energy as Jim Brown. And Leslie Odom Jr. gives the suave charm of Sam Cooke great life.
The conversations each man has with one another is enthralling to listen to. All four are going through their own unique struggles, and the film slowly unravels each conflict expertly. Powers’ script allows these men to be flawed and deal with their own insecurities. All the while, these flaws cause these men to clash with one another into thought-provoking drama. In particular, the values of Malcolm X and Sam Cooke. Cooke is trying to appeal to white audiences with his music, but Malcolm believes he’s selling out and failing to use his music for any true contribution. It’s a fascinating conversation full of conflicting, but valid answers. And it’s through Adir and Odom’s raw emotions and genuine chemistry that these ideas flourish and stick in the mind.
All About Focus
Powers’ ideas also stick to the viewer thanks to King’s direction. Regina’s focus on acting goes into all aspects of the film. The setting, a simple motel room, gives us chances for all men to be focused and crammed together into one frame. The camerawork from Tami Reiker almost always puts at least one of them in the center, and there’s even clever usage of mirrors in certain shots that emphasizes the relationships.
The lighting also gives the film a unique naturalistic look. It feels as if you yourself are in the conversation, making everything more dramatic and impactful. Regina King’s realism creates a situation where we aren’t in a history lecture. Rather, this is where we get to see geniuses and creatives discuss their works, release some steam, and debate over what is morally right or wrong in a very conflicting, confusing time period.
To Sum Up…
One Night in Miami serves as a way to gush even further about the immense talents of Regina King. But most importantly, this is a film that takes us into the minds of four great thinkers and innovators. A look into their fears, passions, and goals. And it’s through King’s smart staging, Kemp Powers’ sharp writing, and the immense talents of Kingsley Ben-Nadir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. that we see their brains explored and displayed in all their glory.
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