Monday, July 25, 2016

Movie Review: Miles Ahead (2016)

Miles Ahead - Directed by Don Cheadle; Written by Steven Baigelman, Cheadle; Starring Cheadle, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Ewan McGregor, Michael Stuhlbarg.

By Kenny Howell

Music biopics have a tried and true formula, and that formula has gone way past wearing out its welcome.

So you think I would be happy when someone bucks the trend, and does something a bit inventive with the genre. And while I applaud the effort of Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle's directorial debut, the execution is a little all over the place.

Cheadle plays the lead role of jazz legend Miles Davis during his silent period in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Davis didn't release any recordings during the period despite owing music to Columbia. When we start the film, a journalist played Ewan McGregor, shows up at Davis' doorstep wanting to do a story on his comeback. Davis thinks Columbia put him up to it, so he goes to the studio, pulls a gun on an executive, and it kicks off a crazy trek to get Davis' music back before the company releases it. Cheadle uses incidents throughout that to flash back to Davis earlier career.

All biopics take liberty with true events, but this one seems to just run with it. The idea is supposed to capture the spirit of Davis' and his music, so the film is hectic, including car chases, gun battles, fights, women, and all kinds of exciting things. I know Davis' led an adventurous life, but this seems a bit much. And it so abrasive in style, constantly barraging you, which can wear on you.

The saving grace is Cheadle as an actor, who is perfect for this role. He tried to get this film made for a long time, and you can see the passion he had behind it bleed through his performance. To get generic poster quote whoreish, he is a tour de force, and may be the only one that really can keep up with the movie's frantic pace.

The frame of this story, which I won't reveal, makes the story structure make sense when it is revealed at the conclusion. I am just not sure what's inside the frame makes it worth it.

Rating: **

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