Michael Mann's ALI manages to be an informative look at the career of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and an entertaining and moving portrait of the man. The action begins with the brash young Cassius Clay's surprising victory over Sonny Liston. The film depicts Clay's conversion to Islam, his partnership with Bundini Brown (Jamie Foxx in a wonderfully complex turn), his friendship with Howard Cosell (a transformed Jon Voight), his principled refusal to serve in the military during Vietnam, and his subsequent problems with the law and the boxing commission. The film concludes with Ali's battle with George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.
Will Smith delivers a worthy performance, transforming his body, face, and voice to capture the spirit of the charismatic fighter. The work of the supporting cast is superb, including Smith's real-life wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Marvin Gaye's daughter, Nona Gaye, as the women in Ali's life. Mann brings the viewer in close to the boxing action, effectively depicting Ali's unique grace and quickness, and the violent frenzy of the sport. The film shows the familiar public figure of fights and press conferences, and also gives a glimpse of the quiet, thoughtful private life of Ali.
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