Miles Ahead‘s rather loose storyline is that journalist Dave Braben (Ewan McGregor) claims to have been sent by Rolling Stone magazine to write a story about the fact Miles has been awawy from the music business for five years. It plays a bit fast with the truth, since Braben never actually existed, and seems to be an excuse to base a film around allowing Don Cheadle to make a pet project around his favourite jazz artist – including portraying the trumpter, as it moves back and forth between Davis’ ’60s heyday and the late ’70s/early ’80s when he’s looking way past his best and lamenting a lost love in Franscesca Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi), the one that got away.
That said, it’s a hugely enjoyable movie and as the film begins, Davis hasn’t made a record in five years due to a fallow period that left him with nothing to say, and lots of Coke to shove up his nose in the meantime. His record company are waiting on his comeback, to which his response comes, “I didn’t go nowhere, man”, and when Dave wants Miles’ story in his own words, he’s told, “I was born… I moved to New York, met some cats, made some music, had some dope, made some more music… then *you* came to my house”.
And despite me referring to him as a jazz artist, he declares along the way, “This isn’t jazz music, it’s *social* music!”
It’s entertaining to see Don Cheadle play the legendary trumpet player, but in terms of a story, once it’s shown him suffering police brutality, it does rather degenerate into a basic chase caper, as he makes a music tape, the record company want it as part of his contract, but he doesn’t want to give it to them, and they’ll do anything to get it. However, as Mr Cheadle says in the Q&A in the extras, this film is not a biopic, more like a love letter from him to Miles Davis. In addition, there’s also great support from Emayatzy Corinealdi as Frances and Keith Stanfield as up-and-coming (and snapping at Davis’ heels) artist Junior.
Miles Ahead is Cheadle’s first feature-length movie, and he shows some great flair including how it moves between the early and later periods of Miles Davis’ life, and the end credits mostly play over a segment of a concert at which Don Cheadle performed with Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Wayner Shorter, Gary Clark Jr, Antonio Sanchez and Esperanza Spalding, the track heard being, What’s Wrong With That?
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and there’s often a hazy look to the print, whichever time period they’re in. At first, I thought it may be intentional to set the effect of the times, but no. Other than that, it’s fine, so a lot of people who don’t sit as close to the screen as me probably won’t notice it.
The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 and it’s full of great jazz tunes… sorry, social music tunes.
The extras are as follows, and they could’ve been a lot more:
- The Truth: Becoming Miles Davis (20:32): A ‘making of’ mixing in clips with chat from cast and crew, plus friends and relatives of Mr Davis. This extra feels a bit too random, with no real structure, so I didn’t really feel like I’d learned anything after 20 minutes.
- Sundance Film Festival Q&A (21:49): Don Cheadle first giving an intro to the film, for a few minutes, then coming back afterwards to take questions in a Q&A moderated by Shari Frilot, senior programmer at the festival, whilst also inviting on stage fellow actors Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi and Keith Stanfield. The only problem with this segment is that, the audience questions are limited to the last six minutes of this piece and you lose the atmosphere of the event as the questions cut to black while they appear as captions, then Don Cheadle gives the answers back to the crowd. Clearly, we don’t get all the questions asked, as you can hear the applause from one unheard answer burst out just as another Q caption appears.
Why not just show the whole Q&A uncut? That’s what I’d love to see! Who was responsible for that?
- Gallery (1:37): Behind-the-scenes shots and posters set to Tim Garland’s theme, Miles Away, which also plays over the main menu.
- Audio commentary: with Don Cheadle and his co-writer, Steven Baigelman.
The menu shows clips of the film to a portion of the aforementioned Miles Away, there are subtitles in English only, and the bog-standard 12 chapters that most releases get.
Running time: 100 minutes
Studio: Icon Home Entertainment
Released: August 22nd 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (2.8K), Canon Cinema RAW (4K) and Super 16 (source format))
Disc Format: BD50
Directors: Don Cheadle
Producers: Robert Ogden Barnum, Don Cheadle, Pamela Hirsch, Darryl Porter, Daniel Wagner, Vince Wilburn Jr and Lenore Zerman)
Screenplay: Steven Baigelman and Don Cheadle (based on the story by Steven Baigelman, Don Cheadle, Stephen J Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson)
Music: Robert Glasper
Miles Davis: Don Cheadle
Dave Braden: Ewan McGregor
Frances Taylor: Emayatzy Corinealdi
Junior: Keith Stanfield
Walter: Brian Bowman
Harper: Michael Stuhlbarg
Janice: Christina Karis
Dieter: Brent Vimtrup
Bartender: Michael Bath
Manager: Reginald Willis
Busboy: Montez Jenkins
Erica: Morgan Wolk
Justin: Austin Lyon
Tami: Nina Smilow
Buddy: Chris Grays
Ava: Amber Hawkins
Nora: Mariah Means
George: Ken Early
Ken: Jeremy Dubin
Live Concert Band: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Gary Clark Jr, Robert Glasper, Antonio Sanchez and Esperanza Spalding
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.