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Blu Ray

  • Score
    from 2 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • Ali is a profound yet flawed biopic, masterfully acted but missing depth.

    Ali Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
  • Ali's 1080p transfer is commendable, albeit with flaws. Film segments are robust, video parts and DNR reveal noise and artifacts. The gritty, desaturated aesthetic fits Mann's vision, with nuanced colors and deep blacks, despite occasional flat textures and light whites. Overall, a faithful yet imperfect representation.

  • Audio
  • Ali's Blu-ray audio impresses with immersive depth and clarity, featuring rich crowd ambience and detailed music, though slightly marred by subdued surrounds and underwhelming LFE in less action-driven scenes.

  • Extra
  • The Blu-ray release of Ali features a Mann-revised film, behind-the-scenes, training insights, authentic on-set experiences with Ali, and a digital copy, capturing the essence of Ali's life and career in detail.

  • Movie
  • Michael Mann's 'Ali' intricately explores Muhammad Ali's life beyond the ring, emphasizing his character, beliefs, and cultural impact over boxing, highlighted by Will Smith's transformative role.

    Video: 70

    The 1080p Blu-ray transfer of "Ali" offers a generally commendable visual experience, marked by a blend of both strengths and weaknesses inherent to its original cinematography by Michael Mann and Emmanuel Lubezki. The film, predominantly shot on film with certain sections employing video, demonstrates a visually rich palette where film segments shine in clarity and texture. However, it is not without its faults. Video segments suffer from noticeable noise and artifacts, and even the film portions occasionally exhibit issues like diminished skin texture details and inconsistent clothing definition. Despite these hiccups, the movie retains an attractive filmic quality, complemented by a mild grain structure that adds depth without overwhelming the visuals.

    Colors across the presentation maintain fidelity within the intended desaturated aesthetic of the film, offering periods of vibrancy amidst the overall muted tones that are characteristic of Mann’s style. The Blu-ray accentuates this with a controlled grain that almost becomes a narrative element of its own, beautifully encapsulating the gritty ambiance of late 60s and early 70s cinema. However, digital noise reduction (DNR) occasionally detracts from the film’s authentic style, particularly noticeable in black and white sequences. Furthermore, some technical imperfections such as slight aliasing and less-than-ideal black levels are present yet do not substantially mar the overall viewing experience.

    Overall, Sony's transfer excels in presenting "Ali" with a level of authenticity and textural richness that fans of the film will appreciate, notwithstanding minor instances of wear. The Blu-ray adeptly captures the film’s gritty aesthetics and period-accurate grain, although it stumbles slightly with video segments and DNR application. Nonetheless, it's a presentation that, while not perfect, effectively supports the film's visual storytelling and atmospheric goals.

    Audio: 73

    Ali's Blu-ray audio experience is served through a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, offering both strengths and areas of subtle letdowns. Initially, the presentation captivates with its immersive depth, spreading audio effectively to the sides and into the rear, creating a vivid atmosphere whether in crowded press conferences or the throbbing heart of boxing matches. The ambient sound in these scenes is richly textured, with the crowd's roar and the precision of in-ring activity—down to the distinctive ringing of the bell—providing a satisfying sonic depth. Music tracks are treated with care, spaced meticulously to allow for clarity across all frequencies, bolstered by a robust low end. Atmospheric details, like the ambient clatter in a gym scene, are impressively positioned, enhancing realism. However, dialogue occasionally struggles against the soundtrack, becoming less discernible in spots where it competes with music.

    Conversely, the overall mix leans towards being front heavy, particularly noticeable in quieter, more introspective sections of Ali’s journey. This choice reflects the film’s dramatic focus but results in subdued surround effects and a lack of dynamic range in crowd scenes or the throbbing excitement of a boxing match that one might expect to fully engage the subwoofer and surround channels. While punches and particular sound effects like camera shutters receive some attention from the LFE channel, these instances are too sporadic to consistently elevate the audio presentation.

    Despite these criticisms, dialogue maintains clarity and appropriate volume throughout, ensuring that character interactions and narrative developments are never lost. Although this mix delivers a competent reflection of the film’s dramatic essence, it misses opportunities to truly excel in delivering a compelling audio experience that matches the intensity of Ali's story. The soundtrack adeptly balances nuances and immersive moments but could benefit from more consistent deployment of surround channels and LFE to fully realize the potential of key scenes.

    Extra: 55

    This Blu-ray release of "Ali" not only presents a new version of the film, re-edited by director Michael Mann for an enhanced viewing experience but also includes a compelling set of extras that deepen the viewer's understanding and appreciation of what went into making this biographical masterpiece. The on-set footage offers an intimate glimpse of Will Smith's transformation into Muhammad Ali, supported by actual trainers and the legendary boxer himself, ensuring authenticity in portraying the champ’s characteristic bravado and boxing style. "The Making of Ali" provides an exhaustive behind-the-scenes look, from Smith’s rigorous training to the meticulous recreation of Ali's iconic fights, alongside insights into Mann’s directional approach and the film’s musical score. The extras further stand out for their commitment to authenticity, taking viewers on location to where Ali lived and fought, supplemented by inclusion of a voucher for a UV digital copy.

    Extras included in this disc:

    • On Set with The Greatest: Behind-the-scenes footage showcasing Will Smith's interaction with Muhammad Ali, including training and fan meet-and-greets.

    • The Making of Ali: A detailed documentary covering the film’s production, Smith’s preparation for the role, the real Angelo Dundee's involvement, and the historical and contextual background of the story.

    • Ali Theatrical Trailer: The official trailer in high definition.

    Movie: 75

    Michael Mann's "Ali," a cinematic exploration of the legendary Muhammad Ali, stands out not just as a mere biographical film but as a potent character study that dissects the life of one of boxing's greatest icons both inside and outside the ring. Unlike traditional boxing films that often dwell on the physicality of the sport, "Ali" enriches the genre by delving deep into the psyche, challenges, and transformations of Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali. With Will Smith delivering what is arguably the performance of his career, the film navigates through Ali's pivotal decade from 1964 to 1974—a period marked by his conversion to Islam, name change, political activism against the Vietnam War, and his boxing ban to his triumphant return in the "Rumble in the Jungle."

    Mann's direction ensures that "Ali" is more than about punches and knockouts. It's a nuanced exploration of Ali’s personal beliefs, relationships, and the socio-political contexts that shaped him and were in turn reshaped by his formidable presence. Through meticulous attention to detail and a palpable respect for the era it depicts, the film brings to the forefront Ali's charismatic yet complex personality. Scenes with Howard Cosell highlight a profound camaraderie, adding depth to Ali's portrayal as a man who thrived in both antagonistic banter and heartfelt friendships. Moreover, Smith’s physical transformation and intense dedication mirror Ali’s own relentless spirit, making his portrayal all the more authentic and compelling.

    However, while "Ali" triumphs in capturing the essence of its subject's most controversial and celebrated decade, it only scratches the surface of a life teeming with achievements and personal evolution. The film opts for a focused narrative over a comprehensive biopic, leaving some aspects of Ali's life explored less than others. This approach, while providing a powerful glimpse into Ali's battles both in and out of the ring, suggests a vast untapped potential to explore other facets of his journey. Despite its narrower scope, the film succeeds in presenting a stirring narrative enhanced by standout performances, especially from Smith and Voight, and Mann’s unparalleled ability to blend dramatic storytelling with historical authenticity.

    Total: 70

    In our examination of the Blu-ray presentation of "Ali," directed by Michael Mann, we find a film that is nearly exceptional but not without its faults. The narrative ambitiously attempts to capture not just the fighter, but the man behind the legend, achieving a level of introspection and character depth that is commendable. While "Ali" does endure moments of overlength and occasional indulgence, these are minor blemishes on an otherwise impactful biographical canvas. The casting is impeccable, with career-defining performances that elevate the film to a must-watch status among boxing films and biopics alike. However, the Blu-ray release by Sony presents a mixed bag; the video quality shows occasional faltering likely inherent to the source material, and while the audio delivers a robust experience, the supplementary content leaves something to be desired for a film of this caliber.

    The portrayal of Ali's complexities and challenges, notably his conversion to Islam and contentious relationship with the U.S. government, provides a compelling narrative thread, yet the film overlooks certain pivotal life events that shaped Ali's persona and motivations. This oversight contributes to a narrative that, while grand in scope, misses opportunities to delve deeper into Ali's character and the intricacies of his life beyond the ring. This "Slice of Life" approach, while effective in highlighting significant periods and battles against oppression, fails to fully explore the genesis of Ali's drive and determination—a disservice to an icon whose life was as rich and varied outside the ring as it was within it.

    In conclusion, while "Ali" and its Blu-ray presentation capture the essence of Muhammad Ali's public life and career with notable skill and emotion, it falls short in providing a comprehensive exploration of his personal journey and the finer details that defined him. The performances are stellar, making it an essential watch for fans of Ali and boxing history. Yet, the Blu-ray offering could benefit from improved video fidelity and expanded special features that delve deeper into the making of this complex biopic. Despite its shortcomings, this release deserves a place in the collection of anyone intrigued by the man who shook up the world both in and out of the boxing ring.