By Charlie Jordin
“If you’re gonna tell a story, come with some attitude.”
Starring, co-written and directed by Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead is a biopic exploring the life of Jazz legend Miles Davis. It is the first time Davis’ life has been brought to the big screen and Cheadle’s performance is flawless, a testament to the amount of dedication he has had for the film. The non-linear tale takes place during his alleged comeback after years of drug abuse and separating from his wife. A journalist from the Rolling Stone magazine (Ewan McGregor) attempts to document his comeback but ends up becoming his partner in crime instead after Davis’ new material is stolen. The film jumps back and forth from past to present making the audience feel as if they are part of a daydream in Davis’ head. The playful, abstract scenes are both based on true events and imagined by Cheadle, who formed a close relationship with Davis’ family whilst developing the film. The film was funded by crowdfunding website Indiegogo and had been in development since 2008.
Filmed in just over a month with a relatively low budget, the film manages to capture the essence of the era both musically and aesthetically, transporting the audience into the past. Haunted by memories of his ex-wife and riddled with health problems, the film begins in the late 70’s when Davis had become a reclusive drug addict. Refusing to make more music, his position as a Jazz prodigy seems to only isolate him further as Columbia Records pressure him to make more music despite his poor health. Exhilarating scenes of gun-toting car chases ensue as he attempts to reclaim his art form in a money-orientated environment.
The film allows us to see a different side to Miles Davis, beyond a pop culture icon; a deeply flawed, paranoid individual and an abusive husband. It is also an unflinching study into racism during the 60’s from the perspective of a black man, with scenes of police brutality still resonating today. Yet, by the end of the film, the audience are left in awe of his talent and cool exterior as the credits roll over him performing on stage.
Miles Ahead is a thoughtful exploration into celebrity worship and how we as a society separate art from the artist, blind to their true nature. The film is a must-watch and would be enjoyed both by fans of Miles Davis and those who have never heard of him.
Charlie is a second year Film and Media student who loves old films and 90’s TV shows. You can follow her on Twitter here.