In 1964, a brash new pro boxer, fresh from his olympic gold medal victory, explodes on to the scene, Cassius Clay. Bold and outspoken, he cuts an entirely new image for African Americans in sport with his proud public self confidence with his unapologetic belief that he is the greatest boxer of all time. To his credit, he sets out to prove that with his highly agile and forceful style soon making him a formidable boxer who soon claims the heavyweight championship. His personal life is no less noteworthy with his allegiance to the Nation of Islam, his friendship with the controversial Malcolm X and his abandonment of his slave name in favour of Muhammad Ali stirring up controversy. Yet, at the top of his game, both Ali's personal and professional lives face the ultimate test with the military draft rules are changed, making him eligible for military induction during the Vietnam War. Despite the fact that he could easily agree to a sweetheart deal that would have meant an easy tour of ... Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I personally think this movie was one of the best of last year. As a biopic it might be interesting to compare this movie with Beautiful Mind, that other biopic that won too much awards. I often thought about, what if Ron Howard,together with his writer made Ali, how would that movie be? Because Ali's life can be told in a very Beautiful Mind'esque way.
Show how Ali became the greatest, then let his world fall, show how he begins suffering from his disease, until he has to stop boxing, and end the movie with some sort of heroic end moment, maybe an award show, where Ali get's an award like, sportsman of the decade/century whatever (I don't actually know if he ever got something like that, but it's just an example). Can you see where I'm going?
Now if you look at Ali, how this movie turned out, you see it's a complete different movie. They don't show Ali getting sick, they show only 10 years of his life, the 10 years that transformed him from a Good boxer to a Legend.
By limiting it's storytime to these 10 years, I think Michael Mann, succeeded in not making Ali sentimental. When we leave the theater we don't feel pity for Ali because he had such a hard life, like we did have in a sense with John Nash in B.mind. We leave the theater in a state of awe. The movie shows us how Ali became a legend. How he struggled and fought, and we never pity him, Ali is to powerfull a personality to pity, we respect him, and given that Ali is very much real and alive in the real world, we can't help but to look up to that person.
However, the movie doesn't glamourize Ali, it doesn't make of him a flawless larger-than-life hero. By portraying his troubled relations with his many girlfriends/wifes, how he more than once let himself be used by others etc. the movie shows Ali was human. It doesn't shy away of his questionable relationship with The Nation of the Islam, for instance. Just as Ali in real life probably wouldn't hide those facts.
Now to come to the practical aspects of this movie...because Ali is truly a magnificent film. Of course Smith plays Ali incredible, and if you compare him to footage of the real Ali, when he was about 20/30 years, you see just how close he comes to recreating Ali. But next to him we also have Jon Voight, Jaimi Foxx, Mario van Peebles, all playing so completely in-character that you hardly recognize them as actors. Then there is Mann's directorial power. From the brilliant opening 10 minutes, to the truly awe-inspiring, moving, scenes in Africa at the end, Mann carefully directs this picture, never making it dull, but also never forcing plotlines. He tells the story so subtle, you won't ever feel like he thinks that you as an audience can't understand something unless it's explained in big bright words. If someone breaks down in tears, he won't compliment this with violins in the background, soft-focus or whatever, he just shows a person breaking down. And I like this style incredibly well, especially in a biopic like this.
So to come to a conclusion, Ali is indeed a masterpiece. Not as instantly accesible as the Insider or Heat, and not as conventional as Beautiful Mind, but in it's own right one of the (not THE:) greatest Biopic's yet made.
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