Directed by Don Cheadle. Starring Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michael Stuhlbarg, Keith Stanfield, Austin Lyon, Nina Smilow, Christina Karis.
THE PLOT: We first meet Miles (Cheadle) during his Howard Hughes years, the music legend having retired from music in 1975 for almost five years. Trying to coax him out of his shell is freelance journalist Dave Brill, who gets his foot in the door by pretending to be writing up a Rolling Stone cover story. Miles is a recluse, and a junkie, and it’s only when a cheque from Columbia fails to materialise does he take a ride with this cuckoo who’s barged in on his nest. Columbia want the reel-to-reel of new music Miles has been working on. Miles just wants to be left alone, to get stoned, and maybe even work on that music.
What follows is akin to, fittingly enough, a stoned Raymond Chandler thriller, as that precious reel-to-reel is stolen out from under the nose of a thief, sparking off a gun-toting game of tag across the city.
THE VERDICT: If Frank Zappa argued that writing about music is akin to dancing about architecture, making movies about music must be synchronized swimming about prime mortgages. It rarely makes much sense, especially when actual footage of those being portrayed exists.
Has anyone ever played Elvis convincingly? Or The Beatles? More recent examples Jimi: All Is By My Side (2003) and Get On Up (2014) – about Hendrix and James Brown, respectively – were brave, unflashy attempts to look behind the curtain a little, but neither came anywhere near the real thing. And the same can be said for Miles Ahead.
The directorial debut of its leading man, Cheadle was pretty much the chosen one, as far as the Miles Davis family were concerned. And he certainly walks the pimp-ass walk, and talks the raspy talk. Cheadle goes full Bitches Brew on the edit here too, Miles Ahead often jumping from timeframe to timeframe, whilst the music jumps from early jazz and be-bop Miles to the mad jazz-funk concoctions that brought him a whole new audience in the years before his retirement.
One of those films where the soundtrack – full of Miles beauties alongside some dialogue from the film – gives you the bigger kick.