Uninterested in being a straightforward biopic and all the more enjoyable because of that fact, Don Cheadle’s impressionistic and time-jumping portrait of iconic jazz artist Miles Davis, appropriately titled Miles Ahead (the title of his 1957 album), is a celebration of its subject while still presenting a warts and all narrative that focuses on the turbulent period in the 70’s when his career wasn’t in full swing as a result of drug addiction and other factors. Ewan McGregor appears as a journalist looking for the story of his life, and Emayatzy Corinealdi was excellent as one of Davis’ former back-up dancers who became his wife and muse. This was clearly a passion project for Cheadle, who collaborated with Steven Baigelman, Stephen J. Rivele, and Christopher Wilkinson on the fast and loose screenplay, and who directed with gusto, giving the film a startling pulse, and letting Davis’ propulsive rhythms, both as a musician and as a human being, take center stage
His performance is smooth and rough all at once, befitting his subject, for whom he clearly feels a tremendous affinity for, as the film is both respectful and artistic, while showcasing some of Davis’ greatest songs from all throughout his legendary career. Shot with swagger and vivid color by cinematographer Roberto Schaefer (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace) and edited with a mosaic quality by John Axelrad and Kayla Emter, there’s a great sense of style to the picture, while Hannah Beachler’s evocative production design would lead you to believe that the production cost more than its reported $345,000 budget. After premiering at the 2015 New York Film Festival, Miles Ahead saw theatrical release last October, grossing $5 million in a limited run. The film is now available on Blu-ray and as a streaming option on various providers. Fun fact: the IMDB lists 36 people in various producer capacities who are associated with this film as the film was crowdfunded through Indiegogo.
Review by Nick Clement