One Night in Miami ★★★
Starring Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.
Most of us have been asked that famous dinner party question. "You can eat with four people from the past, who do you choose?" I'm sure that the four famous faces being portrayed in One Night in Miami have appeared on a few of those answers. Yet somehow, there was a sense of disappointment in the conversational flow and humanity of the characters that felt lacking and unconvincing.
This is in no way a detriment to the actors, each of them supplying 5-star performances. Kingsley Ben-Adir has a calm sophistication as Malcom X; Eli Goree has an electric energy as the formerly known Cassius Clay; Aldis Hodge is so relaxed and suave as the cool as you like Jim Brown and Leslie Odom Jr's passionate soul and incredible vocal mimic of Sam Cooke makes them all performances worthy of awards, glitz and future A-lister fame.
All four of the leading actors have clearly studied the characters and give stellar performances with the material they're given, Eli Goree in particular is outstanding. Not only in the dramatic moments of perplexing conversation but also in the the boxing scenes. Those action sequences both sound and look incredible; they could've been pulled from a Rocky picture.
The film works best when the group is split up. Two scenes in particular, both posing Hodge's Jim Brown as a rational figure of reason are particularly brilliant. They are the moments of humanity that the rest of the film seems to be missing. For a film that is positioned as a character study it doesn't show too much character. With four incredible people having their stories told, you'd expect to see much more time spent on aspects of their careers. Should the famous names have been taken away from the story, the film wouldn't have felt massively different.
So possibly my grumbles are more aimed at the source material of which the film is based, as the opening and closing ten minutes were my favourite moments. They showed the characters doing what they do best and they felt more true. Contrasted against a world of discrimination, these scenes are truly remarkable.
The performances are strong here, but the grit fails to hit the mark. And with a groovy soundtrack to keep the spirit fairly high, there's a lot to praise. But I think any interest here came in the execution of the performances, and not in the narrative. A dinner party that was a little underwhelming.
One Night in Miami available now on Amazon Prime