A good way to begin this is that if you know nothing about Miles Davis, this movie might be kinda kick ass to you. However, if you do know all about Mr. Davis, one might get the feeling that someone was trying to bullshit you, but with entertaining bullshit none the less. Miles Ahead plays out like an action/adventure movie with flashbacks where Miles Davis became John McClane for a night and Ewan McGregor as a side kick, but sadly no helicopter was killed by a car. So do not see this film in hope of having a greater historical context about the legendary jazz genius, it sways towards fictional territory. Directed and co-written by Cheadle, he also give a convincing performance as a troubled musician fighting, for his music, against his label, and against himself. Again if you are a hardcore Miles Davis fan and know about his life, I’m not saying you won’t like it, just be willing to overlook a lot.
The main story takes play in 1979, and follows Dave Brill played by Ewan McGregor, a journalist who stalks down Miles Davis hoping to do a story on him when the two find themselves going to absurd and outrageous lengths to ensure the musician’s latest record doesn’t end up in the hand of Michael Stuhlberg’s cookie cutter antagonist. This journey however is constantly stopped so we can see some boring onscreen romance with Miles Davis’ first marriage. The cinematography in the love parts keeps you interested at least.
By no means is Miles Ahead a waste of time. It’s beautifully directed and Don Cheadle shows he can achieve some really artistic moments. Ewan McGregor is great in his supporting role and the film is chalk full of suspense and the ending sequence of the film is pretty god damn intense. It’s the final sequence that Don Cheadle’s style of directing really pays off. At the same time Miles Ahead has some artistic liberties that seem ripped from an Oliver Stone play book in the chapter of over exaggeration. At no point in the film do they imply or hint at the impact Miles Davis made on jazz and music, nor do they show how that impacted him. It’s an awesome and interesting take on the musician but so was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for honest Abe. It’s this reason the portrayal fails to resonate any actual insight into the legendary trumpeter. We don’t see what made him great or really who he was for that matter, only pieces of him are shown that don’t really make you wonder more about him and seems like a missed chance to tell about his life.
Don’t get me wrong, Miles Ahead is exciting and intense and I’m not one to say people can’t have their creative license with biographies. It’s just well with the life Miles Davis lived, why not explore those stories or experiences in his life, then add your gun fight and car chase. Yeah by the way, this movie has both of those.
There was a great theme and message I took away from the film, being a musician as well (yeah I know a douchey humble brag) and that is that music is a fight. It’s a fight with your heart and soul, a fight with yourself while creating and how we are our own worst enemies.
Check out the trailer below to get a feel for Miles Ahead…