For his directorial debut Don Cheadle chose a complicated and difficult subject when he chose to tackle a biopic about jazz legend Miles Davis. However, using the same theory that Miles used, being innovative and unconventional, Cheadle succeeds as a first time director. Miles Ahead, in which Cheadle also stars and co-wrote the script, is like one of Miles’ songs; he stays off the beaten path to create a film which is innovative and free form (like Be Bop).
In the movie, rather than telling Miles’ story with a beginning, middle and end, Cheadle instead focuses on one particular incident in Miles’ life. (The incident depicted is “inspired by true events.) The main story shows his interaction with a Rolling Stone reporter, played by Ewan McGregor, and the outrageous story of him fighting with his record label over the ownership of his latest recordings. Cheadle then fills in the blanks using flashbacks of the trumpet player at different points in his life. We see his bouts with domestic violence, drug abuse and all of the dark places in Miles’ life, but we also learn about the beautiful dancer who was his muse and the love of his life. I appreciated the balance between his genius and his madness.
Although Miles Ahead is not just for jazz lovers; the music is amazing. All of the new “Miles Inspired music” is written by Robert Glasper. Glasper’s soundtrack is already an Oscar contender.
Cheadle transforms himself as Miles Davis. It’s his best performance in a movie since Hotel Rwanda and his performance is also Oscar worthy. It’s obvious that Miles Ahead was a labor of love for Cheadle and that he really wanted to get it right; and for the most part he succeeds.
The movie has run time of 1hour and 40 minutes and it’s rated “R” for domestic violence and harsh language. On my “Hollywood Popcorn Scale” Mile Ahead rates a JUMBO. It’s rolling out in limited release (it starts in Dallas on Friday 4/15) but do yourself a favor and look for it in your local theater.