By: Oberst von Berauscht (A Toast) –
It is the 1970s and Jazz Musician Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) is not in the best of moods. He’s gone years without a new album release, and has been spending most of his time drinking and doing drugs, living in his home alone. A Rolling Stone Magazine reporter (Ewan McGregor) arrives at his door one day, begging Miles to let him write about his comeback. Miles has a tape that he’s been holding back from Colombia Records, and it goes missing, presumably stolen by a Jazz musician trying to catch his attention. The reporter and Miles embark on a coke-fueled trip to find the tape. All the way through, he has recurring visions of his past, and a love long lost. What results is a journey full of car chases, gunfights, and classy-ass music.
Director/star Don Cheadle has made a film that runs directly in opposition to your standard commercial Biopic styles. Most films of this type will try to encapsulate every facet of the artist by reproducing events of historical importance. Miles Ahead instead follows the famed musician at his lowest point in his career.
Cheadle depicts him as a man fraught with contradictions, not easily likable, but infinitely talented… even if he has long since forgotten what it was that made him so great. The main story flashes back frequently to scenes of Miles during a better time of his life, when he was courting his wife Frances Taylor.
These events lead up to their breakup, mostly fueled by Davis’s infidelity and drug use. Davis as portrayed here is a gangster, first and foremost.
Co-star Ewan McGregor holds his own against Cheadle’s intensity, portraying the clearly out of his league reporter as the willing accomplice to Miles’ growing instability (all for the glory of getting to write about it). The film’s music is a major character as well, Cheadle having gained the stamp of approval of the Davis estate. Michael Stuhlbarg plays a cunning manager who is trying to get his up and coming musician noticed by Davis, and is willing to do anything he can do, up to and including theft, to make it happen.
The editing is crucial in Miles Ahead. Scenes from the past frequently intrude upon the present, constantly haunting Miles with his mistakes and reminding him of a time when his work was better remembered. The production design is also worth noting, with every scene reeking of cigarette smoke, sweat, and metric tons of neglected refuse littering the floor. The world of 1970s Davis is unkempt and depressed, but with signs of the artist’s greatness hidden in long disregarded corners of every room.
Miles Ahead is a stunning directorial debut for Don Cheadle, and a wonderful lead performance from him as well. Jazz is given a visual interpretation that truly matches the emotions and improvisational movements of the art form.
Miles Ahead (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime someone does drugs/takes a drink
Take a Drink: whenever Miles points a gun at someone
Do a Shot: anytime Miles calls someone a motherfucker
Do a Shot: when Miles takes a shot at someone