The true story of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who lost, defended,
and regained multiple heavyweight titles amid political controversy.
Directed by Michael Mann
Written by Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson,
Eric Roth, Michael Mann
Starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles,
Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mykelti
Williamson, Nona Gaye, Joe Morton, Giancarlo Esposito
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Will Smith),
Best Supporting Actor (Jon Voight)
Muhammad Ali is the most famous boxer who ever lived, maybe even the most famous athlete who ever lived. His boxing skills, his controversial politics, and his refusal to be labeled as anything but a champion led to his inclusion in the annals of history. He's a difficult man to translate to film, but Will Smith does a fantastic job, which is even cooler when you learn that Ali asked for Smith personally. Ali tells the man's story by showcasing how many influential historical figures he influenced or was influenced by, including Malcolm X, Howard Cosell, and Elijah Muhammad. But at the core of it, it's about a man searching for an identity and finding one.
Smith plays Cassius Clay, and we get to see him transform into Muhammad Ali thanks to his position with the Nation of Islam and his friendship with Malcolm X (Peebles). We also learn about his refusal to fight in Vietnam, and his subsequent trial for draft dodging that caused him to lose the heavyweight title by default. He spent a long time getting that title back, after losing to Joe Frazier and defeating George Foreman in the legendary Rumble in the Jungle match. I've always loved boxing movies, particularly true boxing movies, and Ali's story may be the most fascinating and uplifting.
Michael Mann brings his visionary style to tell the humanizing side of a larger-than-life sports legend who was largely politicized and controversial thanks to his tendency to stick up for himself and the people he cared about. He put Don King in his place, he told off the Nation of Islam, and he talked a lot of trash, but he had the skills to back it up. If anybody out there wants to learn a bit more about Muhammad Ali in a wholly entertaining way, this is a great way to do so.