First impressions, this looked like it’d be a good movie. Don Cheadle? Yes please! But I should probably get this out of the way. Gots me an admission to give to y’all. *le sigh* I am not a Miles Davis fan. Clarification: I never heard his music. Can’t be a fan of an artist if you’re not familiar with their work. But personal philosophy, you don’t need to be an artist’s fan in order to understand their lives or appreciate a good story. Much like LOVE & MERCY or WALK THE LINE, the music matters little, the story is paramount. This definitely looked a little more rugged and gritty than the usual biopic, but wouldn’t lose its sense of humor. I went in with high hopes. Did it pay off, or leave me disappointed? This is my honest opinion of MILES AHEAD.
The story follows famed jazz (or “social music” as he calls it in this film) artist, Miles Davis. Once upon a time, Miles (Don Cheadle) was the king of cool, playing his social music, living happily with his wife, Francis Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). But events led him to a broken down life, no longer married and no longer making recorded music. Seeking the story of his life, journalist Dave (Ewan McGregor), gets caught up in a crazy thrill ride between Miles and a greedy record producer who wants Miles’ new recording and make a ton of money off of it, and will stop at nothing to take it, and Miles will do anything to keep it out of anyone’s hands but his own.
FUN FACT: Don Cheadle also directed this film.
This is probably one of the more unique biopics that I’ve ever seen. I… honestly have to question the validity of the events portrayed on screen, but this film seemed like it was a collaboration between Cheadle and the Davis family, so it’s hard to believe that they’d accept a complete fabrication of the truth. Even if they did, since they approved of the story that is ultimately what we see, I can’t judge it as a faithful biopic or not. So I’m going to base my opinion purely on the story that was given to the masses.
And the story we got is… really good, actually. Like I said, it’s unique because it doesn’t really feel like a biopic. At least, not always. Uh oh, I guess this means my favorite aspect of the movie is also the splinter in my mind.
Let me tackle the aspect that sort of felt jarring to me out of the way. This movie felt like two movies, not unlike STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. The only fine line difference being that the first half of COMPTON felt like one movie and the other half felt like another, whereas this movie is interwoven with two stories that take place at the same time. On the one hand, you have this gritty, tense, almost gangster thriller about a music producer stealing Miles’ newly recorded music, and Miles has to fight tooth and nail to get his stuff back. The other half is the biopic stuff; Miles being the king of cool, talented musician, meets a woman he loves, yet mistreats, drugs, arrests, pretty standard fare. And that’s what I didn’t like because compared to the suspenseful chases and noir feel of the other half of the movie, it’s kind of underwhelming and almost uninteresting.
And that thriller stuff is actually pretty engaging to watch. Cheadle sure looks like he’s having fun waving a gun around in that 70s getup, and McGregor definitely gets the occasional chuckle out of me as the comic relief. I mean there’s slime-ball music producers, there’s bodyguards, car chases, people getting shot, it’s the best part of the movie. Probably the most fictional part, but I’m not complaining.
Don’t get me wrong, the biopic parts aren’t even all bad. Corinealdi does a fantastic job as Miles’ (ex)wife, Frances. Hell, I wouldn’t mind a *bleh* “spin-off” story about just her. I think she’s that good. She might even outshine Cheadle in the scenes they share, and that’s a feat all its own. So kudos to whoever hired her.
One final note before I wrap this up. I’ve seen this movie twice now because the first time I saw it, I was jacked up on a glass of champagne and two adios m.f’s. In short, I fell asleep for like ten minutes sometime during the beginning of the movie. I had to see it a second time to see what I missed. I did, thank Jesus, but I still managed to put myself to sleep! FML!!! But you know why? Jazz is soothing as fuck to me. I’m not bored watching this movie, I’m just super relaxed. This movie bleeds and breathes jazz. From the more somber scenes, to the more intense fights and chases, I can easily see this being a movie that I’d put on to put me to sleep… or, you know, inspire me to put some jazz in my ZUNE (yes, I have a ZUNE, piss off, you haters).
Overall, this was a damn fine film. A big thumbs up to Cheadle’s directorial debut. The movie may not be consistent with its interesting elements, but even the uninteresting stuff, isn’t without its merits. If you’re a jazz fan, or even gangster thrillers, this film might just be up your alley. I’ve seen it twice now, and I think I’ll tap out there. Again, not because I didn’t enjoy the film, but because I’m afraid of taking a nap. I’m twenty-seven years old, damn it, I’m too young to nap during a movie!
My honest rating: a strong 4/5
upcoming review: EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!