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Review: In ‘One Night in Miami,’ speculative history sings – Washington, District of Columbia

Washington, District of Columbia 2021-01-14 14:41:47 –

Potential pitfalls of the movie that brought together Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown …

There are so many potential pitfalls in the movie that Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown meet on the night of February 25, 1964, and they tend to fall into caricatures, “One Night in Miami …” I feel like. miracle.

The concept comes from the playwright Kemp Powers (co-director of the recent Pixar movie “Soul”), who used real-life events. Four black icons gathered that night after 22-year-old Cassius Long defeated the world’s heavyweight boxing champion. Sonny Liston — For the acclaimed one-act play that imagined what they might have been talking about in a closed room. Regina King’s directorial debut, One Night in Miami, transforms Kemp’s play into a glittering dialogue of African-American activity and artistry, along with an ardent performance quartet.

The importance of theatrical “openness” in film adaptation is often overestimated. This usually means inserting an outdoor filler. “One night in Miami …” is also a victim of this at first. The film, written by Powers, has been featured in Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Cooke, so it takes a long time to get started. I will. (Leslie Odom Jr.) But after gathering in the Hampton House Motel’s room, King’s film relaxed, confident in its pace, and lively in conversation with the civil rights flow of the day and the way each person did. is. Navigate them.

Clay is ready to join the Islamic State, renaming it to Muhammad Ali, just as Malcolm is preparing to leave. Brown is looking for a career in cinema. Fresh Cook from playing in front of an indifferent white audience in Copacabana seems uncertain about his position in music.

Because of such charismatic power, ants usually absorb all the oxygen in the movie. There is no camera that isn’t drawn to him, and it shouldn’t be. But Clay and Brown are not at the heart of “that night in Miami …”. Instead, the movie is drawn to the sparring between Malcolm and Cook.

The sense of victory and blessing quickly fades. It’s not just because they aren’t drinking when observing Malcolm’s religious instructions. (Instead, Malcolm offers vanilla ice cream.) How each character fits or doesn’t fit into a white-dominated world, and their fame poses as much burden as an opportunity. I’m thinking about it. Are they at risk enough? Or is it too much?

“We are fighting for our lives,” says Malcolm.

Of course, some of the same dialogue resonates directly with today. And, needless to say, the existential anxiety of black identity and movies so intimate are not common. “One Night in Miami …” is the first film directed by a black woman to be screened at the Venice Film Festival for the first time in 77 years and will be screened unfiltered.

And when conversations spike, the movie crackles. Malcolm confronted Cook and suggested leaving gospel music and singing sweet ballads for a white audience, such as “Music Box Wind-up Toys.” This may be the most suspicious deviation from the history of the film — Cook, you might argue, but it’s better worth — but it declares a full-scale war, making changes from inside and outside. Set up a charged round trip about what to do or destroy with a smile. Malcolm accuses Cook of not writing a song about the movement, claiming that Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’In The Wind” beat him. Cook replies that the only real freedom is financial freedom.

“Everyone talks about getting a piece of pie,” Cook says. “I want a terrible recipe.”

I won’t go into the details of the exchange any further, but King is beautifully building for the creation and performance of Cook’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” one of the best songs of the time. If the opening prelude of “One Night in Miami …” doesn’t have much purpose, the reward for the final crescendo in the movie is exhilarating.

The momentum of the movie is becoming claustrophobic, but for several reasons. This stems from Ben Adil’s finely tuned performance as Malcolm. It is consumed here with suspicion, worry and self-awareness rather than the usual Firebrand depiction. It comes from Odom’s Cook’s clever sense. And it comes from her first feature, King’s amazing elegance as this director (although she has directed the television series for nearly a decade). Like “Ahhh” Cook, who is stepping on the audience with a bitter flashback of “Chain Gang” a cappella performance, “One Night in Miami …” is finally shared with the soul of brotherhood. I’m thrilled with things. For these four black men, and for many others.

The Amazon Studios release “One Night in Miami” has been rated R across the language by the Motion Picture Association. Execution time: 110 minutes. 3.5 out of 4 stars.

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Follow AP film writer Jakecoil on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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