By Esther Paul – Copy Editor
Regina King transports us in the presence of four legends in Room 245 of the Hampton House on Feb. 25, 1964 in her new film, ‘One Night in Miami.’ The movie is based on the famous night Cassius Clay, later renamed Muhammad Ali, became the world’s heavyweight champion and the celebration, or lack thereof, that followed with his other notable friends.
Malcolm X, played by Kingsley Ben- Adir, a prominent speaker for the Nation of Islam at the time and mentor to Clay, is arguably the loudest voice in the film. Along with the two are singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and football player, Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). The conversation is extensively dramatized as we’re not sure what took place in the room that night, yet King’s imagination is somewhat mastery as you’re almost sure the event must be similar.
King gives us a sense of each man’s personal struggles, whilst at the same time giving us a feel of the atmosphere surrounding the Civil Rights era, early in the movie before the conversation even starts. Cooke faces his own challenges with his dream of performing at the Copacabana in New York. As he begins performing there is chatter of disapproval in the white audience, with many walking out and others expressions of disgust speaking for itself. Brown, on the other hand, faces the struggle of being accepted and respected despite his successful NFL career. We’re introduced to him when he visits a ‘family friend’ who tells him he can come to him if he needs anything and in the same breath reminds him, “You know we don’t allow niggers in the house.” Clay is at the prime of his career, yet his sponsors try to control his relationship with his mentor, X, a friendship that ends up being rocky at the end without the sponsors’ involvement. Lastly, we see X’s struggle to separate himself from the Islam’s leader, Elijah Muhammad.
The evening starts out airy with the men greeting and joking amongst each other. You get a feel for their friendship as they play around, support Clay, and laugh together. The atmosphere changes as the night progresses but the sense of brotherhood never does. They share common denominators, being black, successful and disregarded by the white population. Each man hungers for the freedom and power their society doesn’t offer them. Each of their struggles, whether in their lives or field of work, is related to the color of their skin.
The night takes a quick turn when a serious discourse is spearheaded by X. The conversation is both chaotic and riveting as each man views and takes on their roles differently. They all have opinions that clash with each other. Most of the back and forth that takes place is between X and Cooke, with Brown and Clay playing referees. X believes Cooke is vying for the white man’s approval and not using his voice or influence to help the black community.
“My point is brother, you could be the loudest voice of us all,” says X to Cooke in their hated argument.
X has a certain agenda though which involves him using Clay as the last “ace up his sleeve” to get away from Muhammad. There’s a certain urgency to it as well. Even in his call to his wife he makes away from the hotel, whether to be away from his Islam brother’s ears or because he’s afraid the phones might be tapped, you can tell their lives are dependent on it. X even seems scared, as he’s quite suspicious of the white men standing not too far from the hotel. He even tells his friends that he had a meeting to “start documenting his life story in his own words, whilst he can.” Years later we know, in fact, that death was knocking on his door. All of this shows why he is so adamant to have his friends understand they are the black community’s weapons.
“Jimmy, I am implying that brothers like Sam and you and Cassius, you all are our greatest weapons,” says X, on the role of the men to the African American community.