It's 1974, Muhammed Ali is 32 and thought by many to be past his prime. George Forman is ten years younger and the Heavyweight champion of the world. Promoter Don King wants to make a name for himself and offers both fighters five million dollars apiece to fight one another, and when they accept, King has only to come up with the money. He finds a backer in Mobutu Sese Suko, the dictator of Zaire and the "Rumble in the Jungle" is set. A musical festival, featuring the America's top black performers, like James Brown and B.B. King, is also planned. Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
Though almost all of the footage in this documentary was shot by producer/director Leon Gast in 1974, one reason it took 23 years to complete was because the negative and rights to the film were entangled in civil suits involving the Liberians who financed the movie's making. See more »
Muhammad Ali, he was like a sleeping elephant. You can do whatever you want around a sleeping elephant; whatever you want. But when he wakes up, he tramples everything.
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This is not a film without flaws. At certain points, I cringe at some of the implications, at the juxtaposition of images and thoughts. If this film were on a different topic, I would probably dislike it.
That withstanding, it is a film about something so rare and exquisite, so moving, so profound: a hero. Muhammad Ali is the only man I can think of in the 20th Century deserving of this title. Just to look at him is to feel awe. His beauty, his conviction, his strength, his piety, all bound together in a contradictory but exquisite whole. Ali is a Whittman poem of flesh and blood.
Shortcomings of this film aside, I can watch it again and again, and cry every time. And feel both shame and strength, and perhaps some hope, when confronted with Ali. If I ever have children, they will watch this film, if only because I can find nothing else that I can say stands for what I believe in.
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