Miles Ahead is well and truly Don Cheadle’s baby. Although he enlists help from various entities (including the Davis family themselves) to raise this project from it’s infancy to release, Cheadle has safely earned the title of ‘capable single parent’ by directing, starring, co-writing and even bankrolling a portion of the film’s costs. To put it simply, this is a man who deserves to toot his own trumpet.
As a biographical drama, the film does seem to have a rough basis in reality, following Miles Davis’ coke-fuelled hiatus from music throughout the mid to late-seventies. This is largely told through flashbacks, which allowed for a freedom of storytelling. But perhaps the degree of slack the flashbacks provide is pulled too taught as some scenes step into the realm of fantasy. I don’t explicitly disagree with this ‘give an inch, take a Mile(s)’ kind of approach, however I do mind that this film is being brandished as a ‘biopic’ when it is much closer to period piece drama.
Despite this flaw, Cheadle’s take on the Prince of Darkness is broodingly charismatic and compelling. His performance is enriched by a great supporting cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi plays a passionate Frances Taylor, Davis’ first wife and brilliant dancer in her own right, whilst Ewan McGregor provides a nice comedic counterbalance to the cold badassery of Davis’ character through the guise of a (fabricated) Rolling Stones reporter. A lot can be said for the lightness McGregor brings to the film, but I’m not an impartial critic being a long-time fangirl ever since my huge crush on Obi Wan Kenobi (tell me I’m not the only one).
… Moving onto music! Thanks to the involvement of the Davis estate the score of Miles Ahead is utterly fantastic. The innovative composition of Miles himself underscores everything from sex scenes to car chases and it always seems to complement the scene as if Davis himself envisioned it. This is what the film does right - by paying homage to the music of Davis, unlike some recent musical biopics which unfortunately have not had that privilege being embroiled in issues of copyright (case in point, Jimi, which was prevented from using any songs written by Hendrix).
Miles Ahead is well-paced and all-around enjoyable. The chaotic narrative strands that deftly weave through one another to create a deeply textured character study. Although I’m not too sure if it’s accurate, but it’s certainly captivating. For fans of Miles Davis this is a must see, but don’t look too hard into the glaring inaccuracies, just listen to that smooth, smooth jazz.
Don’t just sit there and Cheadle your thumbs, hop along and see Miles Ahead at UWA Somerville or Joondalup Pines; you’ll be Kind of Blue if you miss it.
4/5 raspily whispered ‘motherfuckers’
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