After a somewhat lacking start to the month, I wanted to make sure tonight’s offering was a better film. Looking through films today for something to watch, I realized it is not going to be as trivial to find Black helmed films as I initially hoped. While many steaming services have a Black History Month section, their definition of what counts is rather generous. But I have a list to get through, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Tonight’s viewing was a 2020 film that didn’t come out until I wanted to have my list finalized so I put it off until today when it fits the theme perfectly.
One Night in Miami (2020, Dir. Regina King)
It’s never a great surprise when a great actor moves behind the camera and ends up creating a great acting film. Oscar winner Regina King is another such actor turned director with her debut One Night in Miami. This substance over style approach betrays a slight insecurity over her own directorial skills, but more than makes up for that by extracting four solid to great performances from her lead actors.
A purely fictitious story of an imagined night between feal-life friends Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Mohammad Ali (Eli Goree), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), One Night in Miami places it’s four larger than life icons in a single motel room for most of the runtime. In here they discuss and argue what each of their place in civil rights movement is and what it should be. Ben-Adir is the easy standout as the civil rights leader. This is partially because of the characterization of the four’s conversation requiring X to be the central figure but is due to Ben-Adir’s subdued depiction of the man. Goree and Odom Jr. as Ali and Cooke flank Ben-Adir’s X with more caricatured versions of their roles creating a welcome contrast, keeping the film moving at a brisk pace. Hodge may be the clear weak link of the four, but his performance has wonderful flashes, and he was given the least to do in the screen play. Together the four build off each other wonderfully under King’s actor first direction.