Blu-ray Review: Ali: 15th Anniversary Commemorative Edition
By John Corrado
First released in 2001, and receiving Oscar nominations for Will Smith and Jon Voight, Ali is an impressionistic biopic that follows Muhammad Ali (Will Smith) over a decade of his life in the 1960s and ’70s. Last year, the film received a new cut to coincide with its 15th anniversary, which is now being released in a Commemorative Edition on Blu-ray.
Directed by Michael Mann, the film focuses on Ali’s earlier fights which brought him notoriety, to his protesting of the Vietnam War that threatened his career, before finally building towards and culminating with his redemption at the “Rumble in the Jungle” comeback fight in Africa.
Although the film runs a bit long, and can fall into the typical biopic problem of having elements of its subject’s life feel rushed or underdeveloped, Ali still holds up as a portrait of the important role that Muhammad Ali played in both the athletic and political landscapes of his time, as a black man and a practising Muslim. The political backdrop of the story is driven home by scenes focusing on Ali’s friendship with Malcolm X (Mario Van Peebles), and how he was affected by his assassination.
The film also works in moments of levity that come from Ali’s friendly feud with broadcaster Howard Cosell (Jon Voight). Michael Mann brings his usual visual verve to the material, especially in the stylish fight scenes and dazzlingly edited opening sequence, matched by excellent cinematography courtesy of the great Emmanuel Lubezki. Well acted and technically proficient, Ali is a solid biopic that is worth seeing for Will Smith’s charismatic and deeply committed performance, and the film also has added emotional resonance now in the wake of Muhammad Ali’s death just last year.
The Blu-ray also includes the two featurettes The Making of Ali and On Set With The Greatest, a brand new piece that shows the boxing legend interacting with the director and cast. This is the first time that Ali is available on Blu-ray, and it’s an altogether worthwhile and great looking release for fans looking to add the film to their collections.
Ali is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 151 minutes and rated 14A.