Ali Screen 14 articles



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  • If Ali’s spiritual and political awakening is a give-in, Mann’s take on the boxer’s emancipation is shoddy; even when a trip to Africa promises humility, Ali is still little more than a showcase of bluster. The film is, um, punchy, but it lacks for The Insider‘s intelligent emotional and political complexity.

  • The narrative is so loose it hardly exists, and the fight scenes are almost afterthoughts. Mann is more interested in creating a period effect with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s desaturated colors and overexposed backgrounds. Most of the movie looks as if it had been shot through a windshield. But Will Smith is a credible Ali, and Jon Voight, of all people, does an accurate Howard Cosell impression.

  • ["Ali"] constantly struggles to attain the level of myth. Didn’t Mann realize that Muhammad Ali already is a myth? Had he just told Ali’s story, and not let his own excess get in the way, the movie might have succeeded. As it is, his style constantly gets in the way, pumping up events that are so embedded in our consciousness they don’t need to be made any bigger.

  • Ali (2001) is less potent because, with the boxer as its locus, Mann and his cowriters fall victim to the common temptation to address seemingly every aspect of those “turbulent times,” in this case the decade from 1964-1974. Yet Will Smith is gamely up for the challenge, matching the film’s ambition when anything less than a big performance would’ve been invisible. It’s as much Smith’s film as anyone’s.

  • I was particularly struck by Mario Van Peebles's Malcolm X, a great improvement on the Hollywood-ized version offered by Denzel Washington and Spike Lee nine years ago; one scene in which Van Peebles's Malcolm and Will Smith's fully energized Ali compare their feelings of rage against southern racism and how these feelings have affected them physically carries more bite than anything in Lee's Malcolm X... This is a high-level biopic, as impressive in detail as in its overall sweep.

  • Smith surely grew into the role he plays here, but in a way, the actor stands beside his performance. The contradictory mix of calculation and innocence, clowning and gravitas, sweetness and steel that characterizes Ali's astonishing personality is skillfully evoked but, in the end, remains a mystery.

  • Ali is an engrossing sports movie, albeit remarkably free of the balletic slo-mos and freeze-frames which, after Raging Bull, must come off as clichés. The staging of the fight scenes, as one would expect from a filmmaker as notoriously attentive to detail as Mann, is both visceral and sophisticated, juiced by a thrilling score and by telling cutaways to those beyond the ropes who have high stakes in the outcome: wives, mistresses, longtime trainer Angelo Dundee, reporters.

  • For ''Ali,'' the question becomes, how do you convey the excitement embodied by Muhammad Ali? The answer is that Mr. Mann wants his movie to do more than that. And more often than not, it does. We see the movie levitate when Ali and Brown chant, ''Float like a butterfly,'' the slogan that takes on a different meaning in each context, starting off as hopeful and spry, finally becoming rueful and pointed. When the film pulls off moments like these, it's breathtaking -- a near great movie.

  • Mann's typically ambitious film about the former heavyweight champ is both visceral and immensely intelligent. From the virtuoso opening to the climactic re-creation of Ali's 1974 Zaire bout with George Foreman, Mann achieves a thrilling mix of action and analysis, exploiting and transcending both boxing movie and biopic conventions with a master's ease.

  • This sense of a deliberately constructed film may trouble audiences who expect a straight-forward biography. Alternatively those not conversant with the life and times of Muhammad Ali may leave the cinema somewhat bewildered. But what is most compelling and extraordinary about this film is exactly this impressionistic re-telling of the past. Mann is certainly interested in the world that Ali lived in, but he is even more interested in that world from Ali’s perspective.

  • ALI is what Orson Welles meant when he called for a hallucinatory cinema... Mann and his co-writer, Eric Roth, all but cut Ali himself out--to the point where, because he is no longer the film's focus, his presence becomes even more impressive. Sure, he's still in almost every scene, but it's never about what mattered to Ali, but about when he mattered (or didn't) to others.

  • Feel like there are definite parallels between this and Invisible Man, particularly Jeff Wall’s evocative photo inspired by the novel. But this is the next step in that story, since Ali’s craving for attention has already been satisfied, with the utter lack of privacy afforded by fame proving its own prison, the insistent focus of unkind eyes represented by the blinding glare of big lights, both in the ring and out.

  • Mann has been constructing, in the course of decades, a vision of serious men, a model of seriousness itself, which is why “Ali” is a unique achievement... Within that real-life performance art is a sharp and fierce political temperament, the force of ideas, and Mann emphasizes the bedrock of Ali’s ideas, and tailors Will Smith’s fierce performance to fit it closely.

  • As a fan of Mann's work, I've returned to it over the years, but it wasn't until I saw Ali again on a big screen last week that it all finally clicked. This time, I was overwhelmed by Mann's film. It may be one of the most unique historical dramas of the past several decades — more a filmed essay than an attempt at re-creation.

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