Everyone associates the name of Ali with the world of boxing. But only a few (including me before watching the movie) know that Cassius Clay, which is his true name, was not only a boxer, but also a fighter for the religious freedom and racial justice and an objector to the war.
“Ali” is an American biographical film by Michael Mann that came out in 2001. It describes the period of life of Muhammad Ali from 1964, the start of his career, to 1974 when he reclaimed his title of the champion in the fight with George Foreman. I have noticed that Michael Mann managed to intertwine both social and sporting parts of life of Muhammad Ali, so that the spectator could pay attention to the fact that they both were inherent components of his personality. Will Smith in the role of Ali did a very good job, and the Oscar nomination for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role serves as evidence for it. The film lasts for more than two hours, and this is a problem for the average spectator, but in case of “Ali”, there’s no such a wish to look at the clock and check up the time left, because the film is watched in one breath.
The movie begins with the victory of Cassius Clay over Sonny Liston, thus becoming a World Heavyweight Champion. Following his conversion to Islam, Cassius Clay changes his name to Muhammad Ali. He thinks that his previous name is slavish. He enjoys his fame until the moment when he is drafted into the army to fight in the Vietnam War. His refusal leads to the loss of his title of the champion and boxing license, he is even sent to jail. Muhammad Ali nails his colors to the mast and claims that he doesn’t want to fight somewhere and kill the unknown people, when he is not allowed to fight in his own country. Years go by, Ali doesn’t have money, it seems that no one remembers him, when one day his conviction is overturned and he gets his opportunity to fight George Foreman to get his title for the second time. The fight takes place in Zaire and goes down in history as “The Rumble in the Jungle”. The film ends with Ali’s glorious victory. Throughout the film, the spectator watches Ali fall in love and marry several women – he himself agrees that his warm temperament makes him a bad Muslim.
It’s impossible not to admire Will Smith’s physical fitness and the fact that he spent the whole year learning all aspects of Ali’s life. All the boxing scenes look authentic, the reason is that Will Smith trained up to seven hours a day, and all of his partners in the movie are real heavyweight boxers.
The work of the duet Mann-Smith managed to be more than successful. The master of the psychological dramas and the comic did the movie that didn’t impress the Oscar judges much, but I am sure that Michael Mann created his work not for them. He did it for his audience. The film managed to be realistic and not in the spirit of Hollywood. The spectator is grateful for this piece of art, and no Oscar can replace the recognition by the public.
DOYLE, KEGAN. “Muhammad Goes To Hollywood: Michael Mann’s Ali As Biopic.” Journal Of Popular Culture 39.3 (2006): 383-406. Literary Reference Center. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.