Tag Archives: Kingsley Ben-Adir

Rastaman, Live Up

Bob Marley: One Love

by Hope Madden

It’s kind of stunning that Bob Marley: One Love represents the first time someone’s told the star’s legendary tale onscreen. Yes, you can find concerts to watch (may we recommend 2020’s Marley?), as well as Kevin Macdonald’s outstanding 2012 documentary, Marley.

But this life seems custom designed for cinematic treatment.

Reinaldo Marcus Green (King Richard, Joe Bell–dude loves him a biopic) finally gives the Rastafarian some big screen drama with a fairly straightforward, greatest-hits look at what set Marley apart.

Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malxolm X in One Night in Miami) plays Marley. The 2012 doc provides a little clearer picture of Bob’s enigmatic, challenging character. Ben-Adir delivers a charming, eternally laid-back presence. Marley’s flawed, but just enough to make him human. Never enough to make him unlikeable.

As the film–written by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, and Zach Baylin–begins, Jamaica is in the middle of a contentious election year that threatens to erupt in a civil war. Marley hopes an upcoming concert can bring the people together.

His wife Rita (Lashana Lynch, The Woman King) disagrees. She thinks it will bring danger to Bob and his family. Rita is right.

The balance of the film follows Marley’s story, sometimes flashing to dreamlike snatches from his childhood, or allowing glimpses of the teen years that brought Bob, Rita, and Rastafarianism together. The main throughline is the trouble caused by success outside of Jamaica.

Lynch flexes muscles we’ve not seen before, though the unapologetic ferocity that has marked her work up to now is as present as ever. Ben-Adir’s Marley is all tenderness, and the performances balance each other nicely.

The music is great, obviously, and a large ensemble (Nia Ashi, James Norton, Anthony Welsh, Quan-Dajai Henriques, Michael Gandolfini) delivers.

Marley’s widow, his oldest son Ziggy, and several of his other children produce. Possibly this explains One Love’s soft touch. And the result is a perfectly lovely tribute to a figure who is not known as well as he should be. But it also does not really let us get to know him, which is too bad.

The Room Where It Happened

One Night in Miami

by George Wolf

The room where it really happened was in Miami’s Hampton House. After a young Cassius Clay won the Heavyweight title from Sonny Liston on Feb. 25, 1964, he joined his long time mentor Malcolm X, NFL legend Jim Brown and soul sensation Sam Cooke at the South Florida hotel.

Writer Kemp Powers first imagined how that meeting of legendary minds might have played out, and now Regina King – who already has an acting Oscar – jumps into the race for Best Director with a wise and wonderful adaptation of Powers’s stage play. Propelled by a bold, vital script from Powers himself, King invites us into a frank discussion about the steps in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and about each man’s role in the struggle.

Though existing mainly inside that single hotel room, One Night in Miami is in a constant state of motion, as four talented actors serve and volley through a ballet of insight and intellect.

Portraying a bigger-than life-personality such as Clay without a hint of caricature is no easy feat, but Eli Goree handles it with smooth charisma.

Clay’s braggadocio is as playful and charming as you remember, but Goree also finds authentic shades of apprehension about the societal role Clay (who would publicly join the Nation of Islam and announce his name change to Muhammed Ali just weeks after the meeting) was about to accept.

Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Malcom X is a measured voice of wisdom, but the film finds its gravitational pull in the forces of Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom, Jr.

As Brown, Hodge is beautifully restrained power, a man of incredible strength still able to be staggered by sudden blows of racism. Brown’s path as a leader of the civil rights movement contrasts sharply with Cooke’s, and Odom, Jr. gives the singer surprising and resonant layers that include anger at the thought that he’s not all in for the cause.

The characters continually challenge each other, as King and Powers challenge us with a profundity that comes from their refusal to settle for easy answers. Each question the film raises connects past to present with committed grace, and One Night in Miami finds a beautiful dignity that shines in the face of bigotry.