Regina King’s audacious takeoff into the unpredictable what-if zone of four most prominent black American icons meeting in a motel room in 1965, is surprisingly vivacious in tone and compelling in execution, in spite of being restricted to one room where Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Malcolm X (Kingley Ben-Adir) come together to discuss how their collective and individual power can help the Black community.
It is a daring premise and one that first-time director Regina King carries off with ease, fluency and aplomb. The actress turned director is particularly adept at using limited spaces to convey a sweaty tension, as four behemoths, living legends in their own right, try to find a voice beyond the one that the colour of their skin allows them.
There is a natty correctness in the way the four actors dress talk and address the problems of their community. These are men who have risen above the ranks of their persecuted race to become more white than the mainstream would allow. These are men with clout in a community trying to find their voice. By showing them sharing a fictional evening together, Ms King draws attention to the power of solidarity, sadly lacking in all the movements for equality that we have witnessed in our country.
Since the film is based on a well-known stage play, the screenplay favours a kind of voluble visual vigour peculiar to the stage. And yet the film goes beyond the play. My favourite sequence in the film is the one where Jim Brown visits a racist (Beau Bridges in a scene-stealing cameo )who won’t allow him in the house after serving him lemonade and treating him as a chum.
Bigotry, says this thought provoking film, takes many shapes and none can be said to be better or worse. Also, a salient thematic thrust in this crisply edited vividly shot period piece is, the responsibility towards one’s community if you have made it big. Whether you are a Black leader of a Dalit politician, you are obligated to carry your persecuted community on your shoulder.
One Night In Miami has many moments of ruminative cinema. The four principal actors are all so into their parts, I saw only Ali, Cooke,Brown and Malcolm on the screen. But if you insist on picking one, I would say Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X is better than his co-stars. As a Black Muslim his character, he has more responsibility to bear than his colleagues. The actor seems up to it. And that’s the beginning of the battle won.
Image source: IMDb
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