Miles ahead is a film about Miles Davis, one of the most influential and innovative musician of the 20th century. Actor Don Cheadle plays Miles Davis. He is also the director, co-producer and co-screenwriter, and the composer of some of the music. The film is set in 1979 and it starts with self-described Rolling stone journalist Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) dropping in unexpectedly at the jazzman’s New York apartment for an interview. Davis does not do interviews, but the studio sent Braden, he claims. At that time in his career, Davis was planing a comeback, but did not want the studio executives to have any control over his music. So Davis goes to confront them and when the arguments gets heated, pulls a gun on them. Still, executive Harper Hamilton (Michael Stuhlbarg) demands to hear his latest recording, which Davis has on reel-to-reel tapes (hey, this is 1979!). Of course, Davis refuses. That evening, during a party at his apartment, Hamilton manages to find and steal the tapes. The rest of the film has Davis and Braden trying to get the tapes back. There are car chases and shootings. All through that, Miles ahead flashbacks to 1956-66 and his troubled relationship with his first wife, dancer Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). Davis wants her to stop dancing and stay at home. That does not stop him from sleeping around with other women. Cheadle’s film is an impression of Miles, his music and his art. Davis cannot be pinned easily into neat little boxes. And his estate refused to allow a standard biopic to be made. The film is like his music: Sudden frantic bursts of electric energy, unexpectedly surprising us with violent, impulsive sensuality. People may find this aproach problematic, but Cheadle and Corinealdi have real chemistry, they are attuned to each other. Corinealdi plays Frances Taylor as a goddess rather than a mere woman. That’s how good she is. I am not an expert on Miles Davis, so I can’t tell if Cheadle got it right. But the cool, the hip, the voice and the energy is right. Miles ahead in not your usual biopic, but rather like variations on Miles Davis.
Stephen J. Rivele