Michael Mann Movie Marathon: Ali (2001)

  • Director: Michael Mann
  • With: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Nona Gaye, Bruce McGill, Giancarlo Esposito, Ted Levine
  • Duration: 2h37
  • Music by: Pieter Bourke & Lisa Gerrard
  • Studio: Columbia Pictures
  • Rating: 7/10


Notoriously obsessive director Michael Mann and star Will Smith devoted nearly two years and over 100 million dollars from the coffers of Columbia Pictures and other financiers to creating this biography of boxing great Muhammad Ali, which focuses on the ten-year period of 1964-1974. In that time, the brash, motor-mouthed athlete quickly dominates his sport, meets and marries his first wife (Jada Pinkett-Smith), converts to Islam (changing his name from Cassius Clay), and defies the United States government by refusing to submit to military conscription for duty in Vietnam. His world heavyweight champion title thus stripped from him entirely for political reasons, the champ sets about to win back his crown, culminating in a legendary unification bout against George Foreman (Charles Shufford) in Zaire, dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle.” In his travels, Ali becomes a symbol of power to disenfranchised African-Americans everywhere and meets such luminaries as Malcolm X (Mario Van Peebles), Martin Luther King Jr. (LeVar Burton) and Maya Angelou (Martha Edgerton).


I normally don’t like to watch movies about boxing and boxers but this had been on my watchlist ever since it was released, I just never got the chance to watch it. Until now, that is!

Michael Mann, who is one of the most influential directors, working together with Will Smith and Jamie Foxx in a movie about a boxing legend (still alive at the moment of filming this movie) can only mean that this is one of the best movies ever made. Combine this with a wonderful music score and the movie is a guaranteed success.

The strong points in this movie is that it is not just a movie about boxing and a boxer defeating his foes in the ring. This is a timepiece about the struggle of black people in America in the sixties, during the Vietnam War and the many protests and killings of outspoken black citizens such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. It’s about a man, loved by many for his sports but hated for his colour and religion.

Another element that makes this movie a great movie is the camerawork during the fights. Mann makes sure we are part of the fights by standing between the boxers during the fights!

Between the problems of the time where Ali was champion, we get to see fights between him and Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ against George Foreman…

I’ll end this review with a famous quote: ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!’

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