“We have to be there for each other because ain’t nobody else understand what is like being one of us except us. Young, black, righteous, famous, unapologetic”. Cinema has the almost magic-like power to not only reimagine history but to recreate it; to turn could-haves into dids. With her directorial debut, One Night in Miami, Oscar-winning actress Regina King employs film to bring four real-life icons together in a legendary fictional night.

Following his 1964 world heavyweight boxing title win, Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) gathers his mentor, Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), NFL star Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and famous singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr) in a hotel room to celebrate. It doesn’t take long for strongly held beliefs to crash, causing the young men to reflect on the many ways to fight for the cause that so tightly binds them to one another.

Fed by beautifully written dialogue, the main quartet is nothing short of outstanding. Ben-Adir is a frighteningly accurate mirror of the civil rights leader, and Odom Jr delivers a career-best performance. As Cooke, the Hamilton star is hypnotic, mastering a level of visceral emotion that sets him miles apart. Hodge and Goree are equally great, each effortlessly grasping their very own particular strand of charisma. 

Facing the challenge of adapting a one-act play, King undoubtedly benefits from the quality of the cast. Nevertheless, at the height of a poignant flashback, the first-time director crowns an already accomplished piece with the help of a daintily orchestrated dance of cinematography and sound design. As Odom Jr entrancingly performs Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come, King steers back into facts, bidding farewell to a spellbinding night. History’s heavy hand takes control once again, cruelly reminding us of the unavoidable nature of make-believe.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Elis Goree, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Leslie Odom Jr, Aldis Hodge

DIRECTOR: Regina King

WRITER: Kemp Powers

SYNOPSIS: A fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s.