One Night in Miami

By Joanna Langfield

Inspired and inspiring, this is a beautifully made, entertaining drama.

Regina King makes a tremendous directorial debut, bringing us in the room where it happened, fictionally, anyway, as American icons Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown gather to celebrate The Greatest’s heavyweight championship in February 1964. What might have been quite the party evolves into something far more potent. These four men are at very different places, socially and emotionally, amidst the cultural and social upheaval happening around them. And Ali, under the tutelage of Malcolm X, wants the influential Cooke and Brown to stand up, as he has, and help to lead the way.

King and screenwriter/playwright Kemp Powers have opened up his original theatrical piece to allow for some swell mid century modern set design and wonderful Terence Blanchard music. But the heart and soul here is much more pungent. We are taken back to a time when the Civil Rights movement was taking hold, when men and women, famous and not, recognized inequity and, often at great price, decided to do something about it. But even though some may find the back and forth between the men a tad too talky, let’s face it. There was a lot to talk about. And there still is.

King, a terrific actress, shows she not only knows how to tell a story and dress a set, she also brings some great performances out of her actors. Eli Goree has maybe the toughest job, but he rises above imitation to make Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali a surprisingly young but wise center of the action. Aldis Hodge reveals a most thoughtful Jim Brown as does Leslie Odom, Jr , who also gets to perform some get-up-and-dance classics. Kingsley Ben-Adir makes one of the most fascinating Malcolm Xs I’ve seen. He is the force, the precursor who insures, if you don’t know, now you know. For all of us.