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One Night in Miami...
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Regina King
scr Kemp Powers
prd Jess Wu Calder, Keith Calder, Jody Klein
with Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr, Lance Reddick, Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson, Michael Imperioli, Lawrence Gilliard Jr, Christian Magby, Jeremy Pope, Beau Bridges
release UK Oct.20 lff,
20/US Amazon 1h54
VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Based on the stage play that fictionalises a real friendshiop between four Civil Rights icons at the peak of their powers, this film is beautifully expanded by playwright Kemp Powers. It's also skilfully directed by Regina King, who has a terrific eye for finding issue-based resonance within the characters. She never pushes things too forcefully, drawing out moving observations about the transformative power of politics, music and art.
In February 1964, Cassius Clay (Goree) visits Malcolm X (Ben-Adir) for prayers before his momentous match against Sonny Liston, with football all-star Jim Brown (Hodge) delivering the commentary and musical legend Sam Cooke (Odom) in the audience. Afterwards, these four men meet up in Malcolm's hotel room, celebrating Cass' world championship as well as his just-announced conversion to Islam. Each of these men is at a pivotal point in his life, deciding how to use his voice to address the issue of racial injustice. And each will need to defend his ideas to the others.
These men are introduced with brief scenes that establish their sharp personalities, professional impact and the way they cope with everyday racial discrimination. So as they discuss American society, each brings his distinct perspective and opinions about what needs to be done. Their banter veers from lively wit to more urgent themes, as Malcolm insists that there's no room any more for sitting on the fence. But the others refuse to be used as a weapon in his fight.
These fine actors reverberate powerfully in their roles. Ben-Adir portrays Malcolm's intensity with surprising textures. Goree evokes Cass' playfully arrogant energy. Hodge embodies Jim's straight-talking swagger. And Odom beautifully explores Sam's fragile charm. At this point in their careers, each of these young men is exploring options about his future, trying to be optimistic as well as realistic about the bleaker possibilities. And indeed, the film's coda goes there with soaring intensity.
Powers' writing is clever, jiggling the timeline to add prescient touches that echo in the fears these men express (two will be murdered within a year). These things feed into the spiralling discussion, which has a bracing topicality as it explores race relations that have an eerie familiarity nearly 60 years on. Over the course of this long night, these four men are taking deeply internal journeys that create ripples we can still feel today. And perhaps this can encourage all of us to make a difference wherever we are.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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