Forget the rumble in the jungle and the thriller in Manilla – this was the scuffle in a ruffle as nine justices of the US Supreme Court were charged in 1971 with deciding whether or not to uphold boxing champion Muhammad Ali’s conviction for refusing to serve in the military on the grounds of conscientious objection.
Shawn Slovo’s script focuses unashamedly on the legal manoeuvrings which saw the court gradually change its opinion over time. Christopher Plummer and Frank Langella shine as two of the ageing justices among a patchy cast, while Slovo’s inquiring screenplay is interesting on how the tremors of the zeitgeist succeed or not in influencing the highest powers of the land.
Director Stephen Frears’s choice to show Ali only in archive footage stresses how removed the boxer was from the legal processes determining his future – but at the expense of exploring how much this crisis in his life affected him personally.
Cast and crew