One Night In One Apartment
Our theatres are facing a massive crisis right now. Given what’s going on around the world, what was once a trivial pastime has become a rare endeavour that may take years to fully recover. It’s perhaps fitting then that Amazon Prime’s first big movie of the year is one based on a play. And One Night In Miami certainly adopts all the hallmarks of a great theatre performance.
With some crackling dialogue showcased through a strong Directorial debut from Regina King, One Night is a powerhouse showcase of four prominent black icons.
The story here is a fictional one but set within the very realistic and turbulent time of cultural upheaval in the 1960’s. Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Jones and Sam Cooke all come together for one evening and discuss everything from race, sports and civil rights. All of this is backdropped by a country abuzz with shock and awe as a young, brash Cassius Clay emerges from the Miami Beach Convention Center as the new Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World.
With less than a handful of sets to work with, One Night In Miami instead adopts similar stylistic techniques as 12 Angry Men and its kin, allowing the dialogue and characters to take center stage.
The result is a movie without much of a plot beyond a fated meeting between four figureheads one night in Miami. Although the events inside the hotel room are fictionalized, the true story surrounding this fated meeting does have a sprinkle of facts thrown in. There’s records of ice-cream being consumed (cheekily referenced in this movie) along with Ali’s revelation that he’s a Muslim.
Much like the 2016 film Fences, One Night In Miami never quite shakes the influence of being based on a play. In fact, the long shots, isolated hotel room setting and excellent performances ultimately make this a movie that’s far more interested in showcasing its actors than it is in delivering something with a lot of drama and tension. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but aside from the early scenes of our four characters most of the content takes place inside (and out the front) of an apartment. This may irk some people expecting a more lively and vibrant picture, and it’s something that translates across to the pacing too, which sometimes feels a tad too slow for its own good.
However, the vibrancy in this one instead comes from the patient build-up to the clashing of ideas between these four men. When they’re together, discussing how best to use their position to help cultural and social change, the film is at its strongest. The catalyst for when everything gets heated (and it inevitably does) is Malcolm X. His character is brought to life beautifully by Kingsley Ben-Adir who captures the essence of a man determined to fight for change.
There’s a constant niggling feeling too that these four men – if stood united rather than divided – could have changed the social landscape of the 60’s. Instead, after this fateful night Malcolm X and Cooke were killed less than a year later.
One Night In Miami won’t be for everyone, and its slow pace and one-set approach will certainly alienate those expecting a more lively romp. The acting is enough to elevate this one though and between that and Regina King’s excellent Directing, this is a well-produced showpiece that’s certainly worth checking out.
‘One Night In Miami’ releases on Amazon Prime Video on 15th January!