Delving into the genius, if twisted mind of Miles Davis.
Equal part audacious biopic and by the numbers drama, Miles Ahead teeters between pretentious mess and gripping drama, with wit, pace and a relentless sense of confidence oozing throughout, even if it feels occasionally misguided and messy.
Set in New York in the wilderness years of the mid 1970’s, Miles Ahead opens with a dishevelled, bankrupt, lost Davis (played by the films first time director Don Cheadle), unsure, a drug addict, and without much likeability. Enter journalist Dave Brill (played, rather flatly by Ewan McGregor) and a lost recordings, a contract he’s trying to avoid, and Davis slowly, reluctantly, re-enters the world.
The film is frequently punctured by long flashbacks to the early glory years, with lots of time watching Miles do ‘his thing’, as most biopics seem to have to do – think Walk the Line or Get on Up for similar heady moments. What Miles Ahead does though, is focus, and spend time with Davis, possibly to the point of breaking, and in these moments, we get to see the man behind this earlier, exciting myth. It’s bold move, and one that works, up to a point. It certainly will be the part of the film that may divide audiences.
One thing the film does in abundance is have ‘cool’, and more importantly, swagger. It’s hard not to get lost in the moment, even in those dark, stranger or more convoluted moments, and it’s this that sets it apart from the more routine biopics. Of course, when the film does wander, or go down a cul-de-sac, the music helps carry the film; and what music! Jazz, and Davis’ back catalogue flood the film, from background sound, to full blown numbers, it is the films gearbeat.
Don Cheadle, now most famous for being Iron Man’s bff, is a hugely talented actor (think Traffic, Boogie Nights, Hotel Rwanda) and owns the role, and, rightly, dominates the film. it’s a powerhouse performance, rivetingly watchable, and he directs with a confidence and drive that bodes well for future projects, musical or otherwise.
A film worthy of attention, even if it’s frustrating, self indulgent even, in places. Miles Ahead is a trip; sit back and let it wash over you.