FILM REVIEW - MILES AHEAD
Running Length: 110 minutes
Cast: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, LaKeith Lee Stanfield
Directed by: Don Cheadle
Story by: Steven Baigleman, Don Cheadle, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson
Cinematography: Roberto Schaefer
Release Date: 22nd April 2016
The Super Fly of bebop.
Miles Ahead is an obvious passion project for first-time director, co-writer and star Don Cheadle, having spent almost a decade in development. Set between the release of 1974’s Get Up With It and Miles Davis’ triumphant live return at the 1981 Newport Jazz Festival, this broadly fictional biopic speculates on the trumpeter’s years in the artistic wilderness.
Against a gloriously-rendered backdrop of pre-Giuliani New York, we discover Davis living a hermit-like existence in a squalid apartment and indulging in coked-up flashbacks to his glory days. The opportunistic Rolling Stone hack Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) manages to con his way into Davis’ inner sanctum and becomes embroiled in a plot to recover the master tapes of the musician’s secret comeback sessions.
The good news is that Cheadle has gone for pure entertainment over earnest hagiography. Miles Ahead may dip a tentative toe in reality but both feet remain firmly planted in fantasy. And it is a better film for it.
With a touch of Gordon Parks and a smidgeon of Starsky and Hutch Cheadle’s Davis is like the Shaft of jazz fusion; the Super Fly of bebop.
Cheadle doesn’t sugar coat Davis’ more unwholesome character traits, depicting him as a rampantly egotistical addict, but the director pulls his punches when it comes to showing the abuse of Davis’ first wife Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). The most extraordinary aspect of Cheadle’s performance is how he pulls off the impressive feat of whispering and shouting at the same time. However, McGregor never seems fully comfortable in the role of the grifting journalist, and the flashback transitions between past and present become increasingly contrived and jarring.
Davis devotees will probably be outraged, but Miles Ahead is way more fun than your average biopic.