The best films in January 2021—One Night in Miami and The Dig

Plus Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a fascinating quasi-documentary about a dive bar in Las Vegas
December 8, 2020
One Night in Miami, In cinemas 26th December 2020, streaming on Amazon 15th January 2021.

The directorial debut from actress Regina King imagines an encounter between four heavyweights of black American history (one of whom, Cassius Clay—before he became Muhammad Ali—is an actual heavyweight who has just won the world boxing championship). The celebration brings together three of Clay’s friends—activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football star Jim Brown. The film’s origins as a stage play are evident, but such is the force of the writing and the four sparring performances that this is a strength rather than a weakness. 

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, Curzon Home Cinema 24th December 2020, in cinemas from 1st January 2021.

Boozy, anarchic and oddly touching, this quasi-documentary pulls an all-nighter in a dive bar somewhere in the insalubrious fringes near the Las Vegas strip. The bar, Roaring 20s, is closing down; its dysfunctional family of deadbeats and blow-throughs gather together to bid farewell. The film is all the more fascinating when you learn that although the characters and the alcohol (and other substances) are real, the scenario is fictional. It’s daringly inventive and unexpected filmmaking. 

The Dig, Netflix, January 2021.

The landmark 1938 archeological excavation at Sutton Hoo is loosely fictionalised in this charming ensemble drama. Carey Mulligan is crisp and poised as Edith Pretty, the widow whose land holds one of the greatest historical discoveries of the 20th century; Ralph Fiennes is gruff and mud-caked as Basil Brown, the pipe-chewing self-taught archeologist who ran the dig. Their subtly observed friendship and mutual respect is one of the film’s gentle pleasures.