This makes the perfect companion piece to When We Were Kings [DVD] [1997
] which is something of a hagiography to Ali. In this documentary you get a more critical view of him and I suspect the real man lies somewhere between the two. Having said that, I felt 'Manila' overeggs its case. Yes, Frazier did petition the authorities to get Ali's boxing licence reinstated but I don't think it was entirely altruistic. He wanted Ali to get his licence, so he could meet him in the ring and prove his superiority - i.e. he had an ulterior motive.
Putting aside the personality and politics of it, this is quite a conventional documentary that tells an extraordinary story. The talking heads are good, though lack the gravitas of, say, Norman Mailer in 'Kings'; there is however, the acerbic Ferdie Pacheco (Ali's doctor). The other major difference with 'Kings' is that whereas the Zaire film only gives 10 mins to the actual fight, almost a third of the running time of 'Manila' is dedicated to what must be the most brutal fight in boxing history. The result is gruelling, compelling and essential viewing.