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In 1964, world champion boxer Muhammad Ali requested exemption from the military draft based on his religious beliefs. His request was denied and when he refused induction into the army, he was convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. His case eventually works itself up the Supreme Court. In their first conference after the case is presented, the justices decide by majority vote to uphold the conviction and Justice John Harlan is tasked with preparing the majority opinion. He assigns one of his clerks, Kevin Connolly, to prepare a first draft but try as he might he believes that decision his wrong. His draft argues for overturning the conviction and Harlan agrees with him. The justice must now find a way to convince his colleagues. Written by
Is he sick? I know he has back problems but is it something more serious than that?
He has cancer, Mr. Connolly. He's a very private man. We would ask you to respect that.
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I was perusing On Demand yesterday and came across this movie that was made for HBO. My wife and I decided to watch it over lunch and it was one of those movies that was way better than we could have imagined because there was zero hype of this movie. We knew nothing about it, not even the outcome of the decision by the Supreme Court. We had totally forgotten about that case and its impact on Muhammad Ali and his rise to iconic status in American history. After the movie was over I looked up Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II and found that by Hollywood standards the movie was pretty factual. It was heartbreaking in places. Christopher Plummer does a great job as a conservative judge with a love of the law, and a love of the clerks who worked for him. Frank Langella was also good as Warren Burger who was the politician on the court and took daily phone calls from Richard Nixon. I was surprised by the less than sympathetic portrait of Thurgood Marshall. He comes across as knowing the law but somewhat of a slacker. The movie rightfully so sticks to archival footage of Ali and that alone is almost enough justification to watch this movie. He was far more than just a great heavyweight boxing champion. He represented the changes going on in America. The only weak point in the movie is the interplay between the Supreme Court clerks. It was the least interesting part of the movie. Plummer and Langella make this movie. They are perfect in their roles. If you like real life legal drama, this is a movie worth seeing. Nice to have movies that exceed one's expectations.
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