- Michael Mann’s Ali was one of the most anticipated releases of 2001, and sadly, it mostly does go gentle into that good night. It is perplexing that the end results were not better. Mann is on a marvelous run at this point in his career- five of his last six films have ended up as must-see top five of the year quality films or masterpieces. Emmanuel Lubezki is the director of photography here. The subject matter is ripe- Ali is one of the seminal figures of the second half of the 20th century in the United States. Also, the acting ensemble is very strong from Jamie Foxx (in his first archiveable film—at least until I get another look at Any Given Sunday) to Jon Voight to actors as gifted as Jeffrey Wright just hanging around in the background in just about every scene.
- Opens with this ten-minute sustained, swoon-worthy, Sam Cooke medley montage.
- There is a praiseworthy visual design to the lighting (above- a stunner) in the actual boxing scenes- specifically the Liston fight to open the film.
- Will Smith cannot take the film to another level, but he is not to blame either for his performance, he is far better than decent here in a very tough ask of a role for any actor.
- Like all of Mann’s films, the protagonist (Ali) is an individualist, and an artist… and there is a colossal confrontation finale (this time it is the fight against George Foreman). Like all of Mann’s films, the visual design is very black, and as far as costume- there are men in sleek suits and people are sharply dressed throughout.
- Perhaps it is the enormity of Ali’s life that is just too much for Mann’s storytelling strengths. He has done sagas before, but nothing stretching out over years like If Mann had tried narrowing the focus to one big fight or something maybe it would have helped.
- The film is the least cinematically striking of all of Mann’s films to date in 2001 -there are long stylistically quiet patches in the sprawling 156-minutes… maybe it is too much reverence for the man and source material?
- A great freeze frame with Smith’s Ali on the top of the ropes at the 150-minute mark (above)
- Like The Insider, the film is damaged by the patchy mix of musical score and soundtrack needle drops. Again, Mann is trying to diagnose symptoms here— not the illness, and curate individual moments. Instead of theme and variation—it is all variation—and it feels one missed opportunity after another.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 2001
Drake, I know you’re not particularly high on Will Smith but what would you say is the best performance of his career?
@Haider- There is not much- I’d say either Ali or Six Degrees of Separation
[…] Ali – M. Mann […]