Ali is a great match for Klein, the two pairing idiosyncratic approaches to form. Klein’s camera floats like a butterfly and keeps close to Ali and all the bodies that push in on him, conjuring the claustrophobia of crowds and the physical labor of being a prized black sports hero.
Playing himself, Ali acts out what is in many ways a fiction, or at least such a steep reduction of familiar events that it cannot help but resemble fiction. The movie is precisely structured, dramatically heightened, sentimental as hell. That’s the appeal. It’s an artifact, less memorable for being good (it isn’t) than for how clearly it spells out what the Ali of 1977 wanted the world to understand about Ali.
A masterful study of a man so mean he makes medicine sick, Klein’s portrait of Ali persuasively argues for its subject’s status as one of the key cultural figures of his time. But Klein is not content to merely glorify the three-time undisputed heavyweight champion of the world... through an exhilarating medley of press conference performances... and invaluable fly-on-the-wall footage, Klein bobs and weaves together a doc that miraculously manages to attend to nearly everything Ali represented.