2020 BFI London Film Festival Review: ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI

5 out of 5 stars

A powerhouse performance piece, Regina King’s One Night In Miami is a near flawless adaptation of Kemp Powers’ (fictional) play which sees Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke gathered together in a Miami hotel room to celebrate Clay’s world title win over Sonny Liston on the night of February 25 1964. One Night In Miami isn’t just one of the most prescient films of 2020 – it also happens to be the best film of the year so far. 

King’s film features note perfect performances from the cast with Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. all delivering in a big, big way. It’s nearly impossible to select a stand-out actor as they all work together so well as an ensemble but Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Cassius Clay is the knock-out (although Aldis Hodge runs a close second). We believe that these four men are firm friends and we understand their motivations and struggles as pillars of the Civil Rights movement. Each man has their own way of dealing with the inherent racism of 1960s America and while they might not all agree on the road, they all firmly agree on their destination of having a country where everyone is equal. It’s a powerful message and the dynamic of watching these real culture icons worry over how they can use their special talents to help change the world is electrifying. 

One Night In Miami marks Regina King’s directorial debut and the actress has an assured understanding of the material. She opens-up Kemp’s stage play, taking the action out of the hotel room and offering-up a little breathing space to remove the claustrophobia of the chamber piece setting. It adds some scope to the film, but it doesn’t hinder the intimacy of the performances. She also punctuates the movie with a wonderful selection of Sam Cooke tunes (sung by Leslie Odom Jr.) which help to add a certain amount of heart. 

A brilliantly realised cinematic experience, One Night In Miami is a totally engrossing drama filled with heart and humour. Regina King marks herself as a director to watch and the film’s cast Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. all show that they have the potential to become huge break-out stars. The film’s plot may be more conceptual rather than being based on fact, but  that doesn’t take away from the power or the cinematic potency of this tale.