One Night in Miami... ★★★½

Fictionalized or not, the arguments for civil rights bathed in star wattage put forth in Regina King's One Night in Miami... make you believe something like this happened, and if not, it damn well should have. I found Jim Brown's (Aldis Hodge) depiction the most impressive, exuding a quiet, gravitational strength and realism. That opening scene with Brown - a greater punch in the gut than anything Clay could have summoned. Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Sam Cookes' (Leslie Odom Jr.) fiery proclamations toward one another lay at the heart of the screenplay's philosophical battleground of brotherhood, with each coming to learn, painfully at times, that they share more in common than perhaps they realize and are merely divergent tacticians. Terence Blanchard's mournful score gently lays over the screen as if by elegy, portending the cleaving of the foursome to come in just one short year. King's approach is just right, keeping things simple and letting the capable actors expend the powerhouse dialogue afforded by Powers' screenplay in their respective clips. As far as 2020 stage adaptations go, this isn't quite as electric and soulfully excavating as George C. Wolfe's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, but the casting is perfect, the filmmaking steady, and the conversations as timely and thought-provoking as ever.

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