By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is a bit of a flashback even though it has only just been released in the UK. I caught Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead earlier this year at the 66th Berlin Film Festival.
So when the Phoenix cinema in Leicester stated they were screening it, I couldn’t resist a second viewing. It’s one of those films that needs a second look to confirm an opinion.
For a cinema with a focus on the arts and culture, Miles Ahead is the perfect film to screen at the Phoenix; and it received a great reception.
Miles Ahead stars Don Cheadle (also serving as director) as Miles Davis who was legendary musician and jazz pioneer. This film is an exploration of the life and music of Miles Davis. The film begins with Davis living a private life as he hasn't released any music for five years. When Rolling Stone Journalist Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) turns up at Miles’ door, we end up following the pair through many altercations, drug abuse, violence and flashbacks.
It’s worth noting that this film is almost entirely fabricated. Miles Ahead (taken from a Davis album title) is a ‘Don Cheadle take’ on Miles Davis’ life through his music. It’s very much Cheadle’s impression of a legendary man but with fluffed up side-plots – but we will get to them later.
Firstly, I want to talk about the cast. The leading duo, Ewan and Don, are spectacular in their roles. Ewan plays a shady journalist that needs to sell a story and Don plays the legendary jazz musician who would rather show Ewan what he is about rather than tell him. This isn’t McGregor’s first role as a journalist so it seems it has become second nature. He is the perfect cast for Dave Brill who starts this movie as a jumped-up journo but ends with a lot more compassion for Davis as he realises they aren’t so different. Cheadle is the scene stealer though, he lights up every sequence he is in. He’s arrogant, amusing, dramatic and stylish. How he juggled writing, directing and being the star is admirable alone.
Davis’ past relationship with Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi) is well-documented in Miles Ahead and also serves as the main source to Miles’ downfall. Don’s role is very complex as it switches between three eras. The present day being interviewed by Ewan, his hectic life after his relationship with Frances and then finally, his turbulent time actually during his love life. The three separate time zones could have been very confusing but due to spending very little time in the flashbacks, it makes the film flow much better instead of a stop-start fiasco. This keeps the realism alive throughout the picture and avoids sentimentality.
I enjoyed every aspect of this film including the acting, cinematography, the first-time directing by Cheadle with funky and pacey shots but, one thing that let’s this film down is the climax. The ending is a little odd. It becomes a tad crazy as it involves a gun fight and a car chase. The film comes to a close like Don had no idea how to end it.
One thing is for certain though; Miles Ahead is certainly an enjoyable ride. The filmmaking techniques used are a perfect fit for a jazz musician biopic. It’s quite monotone to begin with, picks up pace in the middle act before all coming together for an orchestral finish. Miles Davis would approve!
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Miles Ahead was shown at the Phoenix cinema in Leicester – Miles Ahead is just one of a few films like this shown here.