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One Night in Miami

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Why it’s worth your time:

It’s a powerful drama that recounts a historic night, and an actual celebration that occurred between four vibrant, larger than life icons of recent history: Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Malcolm X.

Set in 1964, the film opens in a boxing ring, with an energizing look at Cassius Clay’s unexpected title win over Sonny Liston. Triumphant, he celebrates with his three best friends, each superstars in their own arenas.  Handsome men, cool vintage cars, and scintillating music (golden oldies and music by Terence Blanchard) help set the scene for an evening of reckoning as the four men in their prime, instead of drinking and carousing, celebrate in a hotel room — eating ice cream as they share behind their deepest thoughts and struggles, each wrestling with how to fulfill their personal destinies. But no matter how famous or accomplished they become, there’s always someone trying to keep them in their place.

Directed by Regina King and adapted by Kemp Powers from his play of the same name, the film brings together a force field of talent. Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. embodies legendary singer Sam Cooke with confidence and swagger. (“Everybody wants a piece of the pie,” he says. “I want the recipe.”)

As fullback turned film star Jim Brown, Aldis Hodge (Hidden Figures, Straight Outta Compton) shares a brilliant and shocking moment with Beau Bridges that sets the scene for the film’s deeper exploration of racism and injustice.

Rising star and heartthrob Kingsley Ben-Adir (High Fidelity, The Comey Rule) shines as Malcolm X, who acknowledges the greatest crisis of his life involving the Nation of Islam.

Eli Goree (Riverdale, Ballers) takes on the task of playing 22-year-old Cassius Clay, as Ali was originally known, his first night as the world champ, as he first spouts the words, “Why am I so pretty?”

Lighting up the screen in an all too brief scene is triple threat Jeremy Pope (Hollywood), who appears as Jackie Wilson.

It’s an all-star Oscar contender with a cast that’s rounded out by Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos), Lance Reddick (The Wire), Beau Bridges, and Joaquina Kalukango (Lovecraft County).

The takeaway:

If you’re old enough to remember these cultural figures, or you’re too young to have seen them in action, One Night in Miami is a must-watch. It’s an entertaining and enlightening slice of history that celebrates these giant personalities and their impact on the generations that followed them. Expect to hear a lot about this film as awards season heats up.

Watch it with:

History buffs, boxing and music fans, and the socially conscious will all find moments that speak to them. Students will get a compelling history lesson that also explores the challenges that the mantle of fame can bring.

Worth noting:

The “N” word is used potently, more than once. No signficant drinking or drugs because there’s an exploration of the nation of Islam and Muslims.

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