One Night in Miami – Streaming on Amazon Prime VideoTom Grieve, Cinema Editor
Adapted by Kemp Powers from his own stage play, Regina King’s One Night in Miami is a fictional account of the real-life meeting of world champion boxer Muhammed Ali (Eli Goree), civil rights leader Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), musician Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and American footballer turned actor Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge.) Set in a plainly decorated hotel room, the meeting is orchestrated by Malcolm X in the aftermath of Ali’s championship win over Sonny Liston on the night of February 25, 1964. Ali, then Cassius Clay, is on the cusp of announcing his conversion to Islam, and while the guests arrive expecting a party, instead the evening is dedicated to discussion of the civil rights struggle, and their place in it.
There is a staginess to the film that the adaptation has not been able to shake as each figure jostles and jockeys, staking out their personal politics, figuring their optics and purity while weighing the real world implications of concepts such as assimilation or economic freedom against loftier ideology. Nevertheless, it is testament to the script, the performances and King’s direction that One Night in Miami remains fascinating on a moment to moment basis, as the imagined conversations precisely lay out the internal discussions and divisions of the Black civil rights movement — dynamics that remain familiar today.