Review of Miles Ahead

Miles Ahead is a movie by Don Cheadle, who not only acts as Miles, but also was the movie’s director, co-writer and co-producer. In the process Cheadle also learned to play the trumpet well enough to sound like Miles for a few bars here and there.

As several reviewers have pointed out, this was clearly a labor of love on Cheadle’s part and he should be applauded for his hard work and skills. Cheadle also has learned how to tell a story with film (his first film) and he is able to keep our attention. On the other hand, I cannot figure out why Cheadle chose to focus on an unproductive period late in Davis’ career, so that the only time we find him playing is in flashbacks to earlier periods.
A major challenge in making a movie about any artist is to delve into the creative process and this movie barely nibbles at that. Cheadle does deal with Davis’ conflicted relationship with his record company (Columbia), but hardly at all with his relationship with his fellow musicians (except a glimpse of Gil Evans).

Like most biopics about jazz musicians, drugs and sex are central in Cheadle’s narrative, to which he also adds a dollop of violence and an exciting car chase.