Michael Mann's period films tend to pinpoint key moments in the evolution of a surveillance society. This makes Ali quite different from virtually all other representations of the boxer, since it's not especially interested in his sporting or verbal prowess. Instead, Mann uses Ali's (Will Smith) relationship with Malcolm X, and the FBI's own surveillance of Malcolm X, as a launching-pad for a film that's obsessed with watching other people watch Ali. As a result, there's a pervasive sense of receiving Ali second-hand, through an ambient haze that doesn't draw much distinction between music, dialogue and boxing, while the visceral intensity of his fights is subsumed into Mann's palette. Parched and bled of colour, this makes it feel as if the world did actually look black and white during segreation - and the whites are so cold, so metallic - as well as making the entire film feel like it's lit by a combination of the blinding lights above the boxing rink, and their televisual transmission. It's at this juncture of television, desegregation and, above all, emergent stadium entertainment that Mann seems to be positing a new form of surveillance, primarily spearheaded by the sporting industry, ensuring that Ali's most enduring relationship - at least in the film - is with telecaster Howard Cosell. There's certainly very little room for anything else, since Mann never places Ali in a space that feels entirely private - and the film doesn't even really take places in spaces at all, but across interfaces. So it's appropriate that this is also Mann's first experimentation with digital cinema - it suits the subject matter perfectly, bundling, distributing and disseminating Ali's individualistic energy into something more unsettling and disempowering, raising him and the viewer - and we're hyper-aware of everybody watching him - to an exquisite, Wellesian pitch of disorientation.