Sunday 22 May 2016, by
The good news is that Miles Ahead, the Miles Davis biopic, has a lead actor (Don Cheadle) playing the title character that strongly resembles Davis (side eye, whilst still supporting, to you Zoe Saldana and David Oyelowo). The better news is that those wary of biographies which take you through a troubled childhood, discovery, downfall and comeback, highlighting little known facts of creative genius, will find none of that here. It was more a day-in-the-life-of in which Davis’s dialogue and flashbacks tell us enough about who he is and where he is going. The bad news is that those looking for Davis’s music will be disappointed because there are few Davis tunes.
In Miles Ahead we find Davis living in disarray and being spoken of by both music critics and producers in the past-tense, although he’s still very much alive. Just with nothing to say, and lonely in a world of notoriety. So he stays home—managing pain, demanding cheques from Columbia (Records) and having parties for one with drugs and alcohol, until journalist Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) comes looking for a story—and maybe a sneak peak of his much anticipated album.
At a Ritzy Picturehouse screening on 6th April, Cheadle, who also directs, explained that with the support of Davis’s children and ex-wife he created a story to reflect the essence of Davis’s music—alive, dynamic and pushing boundaries. This is accomplished visually and through storytelling techniques—with flashbacks that share scenes with the present and car chases. Listening to Cheadle talk about what audiences should expect reminded me of Quentin Tarantino discussing The Hateful Eight roadshows, highlighting the cinematic experience of 70mm film because, like Tarantino, Cheadle wants to take viewers on a journey. If you surrender to it, suspend what you think you know about Miles, his myth and his music, and tales of redemption; and go in expecting stories of love, money and addiction (both the redeeming and destructive kinds), you’ll find something that exceeds your expectations and makes you question how this film took 8 years to make.
Dir. Don Cheadle, 2015