Miles Ahead, inspired by events in his life, is a wildly entertaining, impressionistic, no-holds barred portrait of one of 20th century music’s creative geniuses, Miles Davis. Don Cheadle filled the title role and co-wrote the script with Steven Baigelman while also making his directorial debut.
A crazy reporter from Rolling Stone, Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) forces his way into Davis’ house and, over the next few days, the two men unwittingly embark on a wild and sometimes harrowing adventure to recover a stolen tape of the Davis’ latest compositions. Throughout his crazy flashbacks, some of his most beautiful memories are with dancer Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). During their romance and subsequent marriage, Frances served as Davis’ muse. It was during this period that he released several of his signature recordings including the groundbreaking “Sketches of Spain” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.”
The direction of the film and its starting point is what I found most fascinating. Out of all the places in his life Cheadle could’ve highlighted, he chose the period when Miles wasn’t making music. Davis went through a five-year period where he disappeared. During this period there was depression, tumult, and lack of trust. Everyone was looking to take advantage of him: Columbia withheld his checks until they received new music, Dave went through a brief period of greed wanting to steal his secret recordings, a representative for another artist named Junior wanted to steal his tape, and he had a spat with law enforcement.
The question of did he really turn into a gun-wielding vigilante set to take back his music… Is like the question “Did Prince REALLY beat Charlie Murphy in basketball and serve him pancakes?” (insert deep-thought emoji).
Miles Ahead is a wonderful adventure through the musical prowess of Miles Davis led by the creativity of Don Cheadle. After facing many setbacks, including lack of funding and talent availability, he had nothing but positive things to say about the crew and the Cincinnati’s Film Commission. He thanked them for “pulling out all the stops. Only three features have ever been shot there and we were very lucky because they had recently wrapped Todd Haynes’ film Carol and they were in a good place. Still, there were days when we had two cameras and only one operator available, because the other was working on another project. We also didn’t have use of the Steadicam for the first week. But fortunately everyone was totally committed.”
Breaking all the rules of your typical documentary or biopic, I give Miles Ahead a 7.5 out of 10. It gets off to a slow start and the story does have holes in it, but once it finally gets going you’ll become entranced with the story and its characters.