Review: Miles Ahead (2016)

My Plot review: On the Fence
Star rating: Star rating of 2.5

Swayed by the Cool

Ah, another biopic about some musical superstar with a taste for booze, drugs and the ladies. Don Cheadle makes his directorial debut with Miles Ahead which yes, does feature a musician with a taste for booze, drugs and the ladies but is not the kind of biopic you're used to seeing begging for Oscar's come February-time.

Whilst the film does revert to format throughout its run time, Cheadle has instead decided to take an almost buddy-cop route to tell the story of jazz legend Miles Davis. Yes, you did read that right. Cheadle and McGregor are a roles reversed Murtaugh and Riggs as they take on a mission to recover a recording stolen from Davis during his years in hiding.

Weaved throughout the A-plot are the more conventional moments of Miles Davis rise to stardom, his marriage to Frances Taylor (played by the mesmerising Emayatzy Corinealdi) and its inevitable drug-fuelled collapse. If you took the main plot on its own, it's too silly to justify the incredible life of Miles Davis and yet if you take the flashbacks on their own, it's just too conventional to do justice to the creativity of the man.

"Instead, you are left with a schizophrenic piece of cinema that is impossible to hate, yet is just as hard to connect with on any kind of level."

Credit must go to Cheadle who almost pulls off this difficult balancing act, showing a steady hand behind the camera with a variety of fascinating shots. It may not entirely work, but he certainly has an eye for a good visual and often keeps the film moving at a steady pace. More impressive is his turn as Miles Davis, displaying a wild cool but with a talent for the quip. Together with Ewan McGregor (playing fictional journalist Dave Brill), a brilliant partnership is created which results in some big laughs amongst the chaos.

For every laugh however, comes a sour note. Cheadle does not sugar coat the fact that Miles Davis wasn't a particularly nice man. Genius? Absolutely, but a woman beating, drug abusing piece of crap all the same. After a while, the darker side of the film struggles to gel with the more light hearted moments resulting in a disjointed mess that unfortunately can not be saved.

I think I come down on the side of liking the film for the most part, there is just too much to like about it. Yet, it's also incredibly hard to recommend a film with so many obvious problems that prevent it from being a cohesive piece of cinema.

That said, there is enough on show for me to look forward to the next time Cheadle gets behind the camera. Hell, I'd probably be excited for a 'Bubba Ho-Tep'-esque adventure which pits Davis and Brill against some kind of demon, the partnership is that much fun.

The best jazz is filled with chaos and beauty, sadly 'Miles Ahead' suffers too many bum notes to declare a triumph.

Miles Ahead is released in the UK on April 22nd