Ali's biggest match, his fight with the US government. A film about the politics and hubris surrounding the Vietnam War and the revenge exacted on America's greatest sportsman of the 20th century because he refused to fight in that war.
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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
I had a mixed-reaction to this film. It panders to the audience too much, with the workers in the Supreme Court conversing on subjects that would be obvious to them. Also, at some moments it feels like the plot is jumping from one moment to the next, rather than moving along seamlessly. My third criticism is that it glosses over the likely fact that Ali didn't want to go to the Vietnam War because he didn't want to fight. The movie gives the inaccurate impression that the boxer stood purely on religious grounds. However, that is not what the film is about. It was assumed by the Solicitor General that Ali was honest with his convictions, and this work concerns a fight in the highest court.
The main reason to see the HBO movie is Christopher Plummer's fantastic performance as Justice John Marshall Harlan. He plays a reflective man nearing the end of his life beautifully. Christopher and Frank Langella, who plays Chief Justice Warren Burger, have some great scenes together. Additionally, there is some well-chosen historical footage of Ali speaking to the media. If you're a fan of politics or just want to see Plummer knock one out of the park, you will probably enjoy Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight; but, I think it is overly simplistic.
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