Rated: R for strong language throughout, drug use, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 1, 2016 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics
Donning a decent afro Don Cheadle put his heart and soul into an artist who had great influence on 20th Century jazz or "social music" in the freeform, independently-produced Miles Ahead which can be considered a step in the right direction when it comes to the issue of 'diversity.' It proves to be an interesting counterpoint to a more coherent and dramatically nourished "Born To Be Blue" biopic of revered white musician Chet Baker played by Ethan Hawke.
The greenback director, star, and co-writer puts together a pretty polished production when it comes to capturing various periods, including the late 50s and 60s of extremely gifted and funny jazz icon Miles Davis with the back catalogue allotted to him from the family's estate.
Not just in structure is the product offbeat or free and easy in this promulgating of an actor who has performed well under Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Soderbergh, with his most significant on-screen work still being Hotel Rwanda after beginning in the war picture Hamburger Hill.
The creative process of a dynamic personality represents the emotional charge of drug of choice to express a volatile existence in a loose way as the filmmaker's exploration touches on racial intolerance, infidelity and domestic abuse.
Ewan MacGregor's needling Rolling Stone reporter Dave Braden (a character amalgamation) turns out to be the thorn in Davis's side that he needs to spur a resurgence after cloistered, disabled, and driven by alcohol and drugs holed up in his messy flat. Braden helps secure some stash after an apology for a scuffle to help persuade the seemingly past his prime and contentious guy for that all-important interview in the central time frame.
A little romantic percolation comes by way of episodic flash backing during some studio session chasing of a rocky relationship with dancer and muse of an ex-wife Frances Taylor (a voluptuous Emayatzy Corinealdi). Also, some strong rhythms are accessible from the rendition of the likes of Sketches of Spain and an album cover with Frances on it during a fond looking back period.
In what feels like a series of riffs Cheadle isn't going for the quintessence of the laconic, raspy Davis (who lost his voice for awhile after polyp surgery). But, the ambience of a fairly nimbly handled 'biopic' is there to behold as the man is overshadowed by his legend. Which perhaps makes it less genuine and more spurious to some degree than prime genre examples like Bird and Pollock. If this impressionistic, fragmented "Miles" isn't ahead of the rest of the competition in terms of thematic resonance and lasting contributions, it listens to the kinetic, smoothly distinctive sound of a different trumpeter.