Sunday, January 17, 2021

Best of Year (so far): Regina King's superlative could-have-happened ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI

For all the good things you've heard about ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI, the movie turns out to be even better. It starts well, builds consistently into something richer and more meaningful than you could have imagined, even given the subject matter --  the night spent together by four black icons (Cassius Clay Jr., Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X), all of whom had at least a nodding acquaintance with each  other and actually attended the world heavyweight boxing match that Clay had won earlier that evening -- and ends reaching the highest level of thought and emotion of which movies may be capable. How? Best I can figure is simply via an extraordinary intelligence and simplicity.

This is thanks to the film's writer Kemp Powers (adapted from his play of the same name), its director, Regina King (shown at right), and its amazing cast, especially the four leading actors. How Mr. Powers manages to encapsulate so much of Black American history, philosophy and ideas in such a natural, off-the-cuff manner is exemplary. His dialog grabs you and holds you, first to last, and best of all, he does right by each of his characters.

As director, Ms King, who has over and over again proven herself a very fine actress, comes at this material in the most naturalistic manner. She, along with her cinematographer (Tami Rekier) and editor (Tariq Anwar) have the knack of understanding where to place the camera and seize the moment without ever appearing to do so. The direction of this movie never calls attention to itself, and that is Ms King's great achievement. 

Unfortunately work like this rarely wins awards. It should, for it is quietly extraordinary. Even when King moves from the movie's main location -- a simple hotel room -- to the outside and even to past events, all this unfolds so gracefully and naturally that no underscoring is ever needed.

As to that cast, these four amazing actors could not be bettered, TrustMovies believes. No one grandstands or is in any way better than his co-stars. Each achieves his character's major and minor qualities in the most natural, direct manner. The performances themselves keep you riveted. As Malcolm X, Kingsley Ben-Adir (three photos up) brings the man's intelligence, passion and paranoia (that last quite justified) to full bloom, while Eli Goree (two photo above) makes Clay's braggadocio, as well as his talent, not merely believable but hugely entertaining.

Leslie Odom, Jr.
 (two photos up) lets Cooke's layers of intelligence and enormous feeling emerge ever so slowly, and in so doing makes them resonate all the more, while the quiet strength and power in Aldis Hodge's performance as Jim Brown (above) commands both the screen and the movie via its stillness and subtlety. Sure, these guys were all legends. What we have here are the humans behind those legends.

What the movie has to say about the Black experience -- then and now -- is paramount, of course. Powers and King don't preach. They simply show and tell. I can't imagine that audiences who genuinely care about this fractured country of ours, where it has been and where it is going, will not hang on every word and every beautiful, eye-, mind- and heart-opening performance on view. For me, so far, this is the year's best film.

From Amazon Studios and running 114 minutes, the movie is in theaters now, as well as streaming on Prime Video. Miss it and you will not be doing yourself any favor.

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