Published Feb 16, 2021On the night of February 25, 1964, Malcolm X (Kingslee Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) met in a Miami hotel the night of Clay's debut as the world's heavyweight boxing champion. What the legendary figures that night discussed however, remains a mystery— one that director Regina King reimagines in One Night in Miami.
The tension simmering around these iconic Black leaders is palpable as King paints a turbulent relationship between all four men, where X's no-nonsense politics put a strain on the meeting's supposed celebratory nature. Arguments break out between X and Cooke, X and Clay, and X and Brown, turning the heat up on the already boiling pot that was the civil rights movement in 1960s America.
Fantastic performances on behalf of the cast create picture-perfect portraits of the larger-than-life characters, exploring the oftentimes hostile dichotomy between Black pride and success in a white-ruled country. These conversations lead way to the hauntingly familiar ending, as, after months of anxiety and threats on his life, Malcolm X was murdered on February 21, 1965, a year following the iconic Miami meeting.
What the film fails to touch on, however, is Cooke's untimely death, which occurred before X's and just months after the famous meeting. The circumstances surrounding Cooke's death are unclear and controversial but the lack of reference to the musician's death in a film about the man's legacy is a glaring omission.
Besides the limitations of One Night in Miami's central story being based in fantasy, stellar leads and timely conversations reflect on King as a director to be watched. (Amazon Prime)