Review: Miles Ahead


DIR: Don Cheadle • WRI: Steven Baigelman, Don Cheadle •  PRO: Don Cheadle, Pamela Hirsch, Darryl Porter, Daniel Wagner, Vince Wilburn Jr., Lenore Zerman • DOP: Roberto Schaefer • ED: John Axelrad, Kayla Emter • DES: Hannah Beachler • MUS: Robert Glasper • CAST: Don Cheadle, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Ewan McGregor

Don Cheadle takes to the directorial bandstand, and hits a serious career high note, in this groovin’, pitch perfect directorial debut. And just because he can, Cheadle gives a masterful riff performing as Miles Davis to boot. He plays Davis with velvet cool artistry; as a self-aware mythic figure and jaded artist who has lost the path, giving Davis a snaring temperamental core.

There’s loud knocking on the front door. It’s the mid 70’s. And after 5 years, cocooned away from public life Howard Hughes style, Miles Davis opens up the door. Dawning a blue velvet robe. Face concealed behind boxy gold tinted shades and a long fuzzy fro. Cigarette angling suavely off his lips, and speaking in a strained whisper of pure cool. Mile Davis might be the coolest cat that ever lived. And standing in front him, is this mousy, long-haired, cotton shirt, tie-wearing honky, Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor), who makes a strange Scottish bleating every time he opens his mouth. He says he’s with Rolling Stone, that he’s taken a long shot, after trailing some ominous lead to Davis’s front door, in precious search of an interview. But Rolling Stone’s mousey enthusiasm is all too much for Miles. So he socks Dave one clean in the face. Miles has lost his shit. He hasn’t made a record since god knows when; and is talking in riddles. All the better for Rolling Stone. If Dave can just manage to get a foot in the door, and a crack at an interview. And when he finally stumbles inside Davis’ house, it’s like a jazz-smitten version of a Manson den, and from here on out the vibes only get stranger and stranger.

Needless to say, Rolling Stone’s eager beaver journalist and Miles, get things off on a lighter note. Retreating to Miles basement getting coked up, swigging on a bottle of whiskey, talking jazz and life. Though just as a friendship is beginning to blossom, when the liquor is running low; Dave heads into the lion’s den, aka the party upstairs for a refill. And as fate would have it; through a series of mishaps, pretences and coincidences, this results in the theft of Miles’ new record material. Miles and Dave are driven together, dead set on the hunt to retrieve the elusive recording tape. Risking life and limb as we follow them into a Jazzy noir-tinged universe, of punch-ups, shady record producers, trumpets, trombones, as they chase tails, and memories down blind alleys.

Miles Ahead is a picture that’s totally self-aware, wearing its wholesome references on its sleeve. Everything from Preston Sturges comedies to ’70s Blaxploitation, laced with tinges of Hammett and Chandler. The movie plays out just like Davis’ music; it’s a narcotic jazzy improvisation of the man’s life. A madcap drunken drug-fuelled Odyssey shifting through different times, timelines and time zones. It’s a rollicking, at times farcical, anything but conventional biopic, (although it has a killer soundtrack). This isn’t trying to be a narrative mishmash/greatest hits of a person’s life type deal, this is something else. It isn’t so much the biopic of Miles Davis, as a compilation of the American myth of Miles Davis, the folktales, the Chinese whispers of a musical revolutionary. Which in the end is probably as much about our perception of Davis as it is about the essence of the man himself. A potent cocktail of fact, fiction, and the ominous space in-between; where the lines begin to blur.

Michael Lee

100 minutes
15A (See IFCO for details)

Miles Ahead is released 22nd April 2016

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