Friday, April 29, 2016

[Review] Miles Ahead

The sentiment has been reiterated time and time again: Music Biopics often fall flat. And it certainly doesn't help that there's so many of them each year. In fact, at least three have released within the past month or so. Legendary jazz (or as he likes to call it, "social music") musician & composer Miles Davis is the subject of Miles Ahead. The film is also Don Cheadle's passion project, in which he directs, co-writes, and stars in. While the portrait isn't a masterpiece, it manages to be an engrossing anecdote of the renowned trumpeter.

Filtered by a smokey grain, there the legend sits in his disheveled home, hitting the bottle and puffing cigarettes. It looks like he hasn't changed out of his bathrobe in weeks. Eventually, a Rolling Stone journalist (played by Ewan McGregor) shows up to interview Davis for "A Comeback Story". And to put it lightly, Davis isn't the easiest interview. The narrative alternates between this era and flashbacks to his more active days, as well as his romance with Francis Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi).

First off, Don Cheadle is a tour de force here, swathing Davis with an erratic swagger. The scratchy, whisperous voice is unmistakable. You can tell Cheadle did a lot of research on the cadences and mannerisms. Davis the character is never painted in a sugary or flattering light. His genius is definitely on display every time he puts his mouth to a trumpet or leads a band session, but we also witness the worst of him--he hits his wife and fervently snorts plethoras of cocaine. Ewan McGregor gives a fine supporting performance. He's always better in these shaggier roles. The great Michael Stulhbarg shows up as a shady industry player, and it couldn't be any more fitting. Short Term 12 breakout Keith Stanfield also appears as a young prodigy.

Of course, the film's soundtrack is killer, and it'd be a crime if it wasn't. The script delivers some solid lines of dialogue, and it touches upon the perils of being signed away to a major record label, music ownership, and the idea of a legacy. Oddly, the film culminates in a car chase shootout and an altercation during a boxing match over a stolen demo tape. We question the story's deviations, but they certainly make things... eventful.


1 comment:

  1. Nice review. Some of the other movies you reviewed look interesting. I really miss the video store days plus now having a kid I just don't watch as much as I used to. Anywho, your review is on point. Ewan is super strong in this piece. I think I'd have to watch this again to get a feel for the soundtrack.