Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
He is now known by his chosen name of Muhammad Ali, or just as The Greatest, an eternally famous boxing champion who was eventually given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the President of the United States, but his road to such glory rocky to say the least. Ali began his career as a teenager under his born name of Cassius Clay, building up a following and an impressive management team before converting to Islam, changing his name and aligning himself with the Nation Of Islam movement under the guidance of Elijah Muhammad. The NOI saw Christianity as the religion of the enslaver and Islam as the road to freedom for African Americans; when it comes time for Ali to appear before the draft board, he is devoutly religious and riding on the confidence of being a champion. He gives a number of interviews in which he states, in no uncertain and, delightfully, articulate terms, that fighting people he’s never met on behalf of a government that treats him like he has no worth is not something he is willing to do. This means not only nation wide controversy but also legal troubles including increased FBI attention and the threat of a very long prison sentence, which he offsets with public appearances that we watch go from controversial to smooth as his abilities as a speaker mature. This sincere and straightforward documentary focuses mainly on this period in Ali’s life, including a wealth of footage from talk shows, his campus speeches and the odd trial. It never delves into anything too deeply, and there might not be too much that the devoted fan doesn’t already know, but the appearance of his ex-wife Khalilah, his daughter Hana and friends and colleagues makes for a pleasant and informative viewing experience.