It’s made clear to us right off that this film is not factual. There are some factual elements in the film – Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) did stop making music for 5 years, became a reclusive person and something made him start making music again.
The film starts us in the later years of Miles’ life. He has already reached fame and fortune. But his drug addiction has turned him into a Howard Hughes recluse. And he has temporarily turned his back on music. The story opens with Miles alone in his home when he is aggressively approached by Rolling Stone magazine writer Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) who is interested in writing about Miles’ new project. The opportunistic Brill gets swept into a fantastical series of events that include following Miles as he confronts his record label, procures cocaine and is chased through the streets in a hail of gunfire by unscrupulous folk looking to advance their worldly standing through the theft of Miles’ still-in-progress demo tape.
By way of flashbacks, we get a glimpse into the more serene life of Miles Davis before drugs off-tracked his career. A clean cut Davis is seen rising in ranks through the Jazz clubs of America and eventually falling for Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who would eventually become his wife of 10 years.
The film doesn’t dive too deeply into the domestic violence between the two lovers that became headlines back in the early 60’s nor does it touch too intensively the racial tensions in America at the time. There is a scene where Davis is unprovokingly harassed by police officers and taken to jail for simply showing kindness to a woman of white skin, but the film has no message to present in terms of Miles’ involvement with racial divides at the time. Instead, Cheadle keeps the camera focused on a single day in the broken down icon’s history. This works largely to the films advantage but sacrifices giving us a glimpse into the life of the historic character.
Don Cheadle is a revelation as Miles. The raspy voice, the trumpet playing, the belligerence. All are played exactly on key. The supporting cast does amply in tow but there is little to look at outside of Cheadle’s performance. Still, it’s ironic that while Cheadle seems to get not only jazz, but the concept of creativity – starting off the movie with the Miles Davis quote “When you’re creating your own shit, man, even the sky ain’t the limit”
But a jittery hand held camera may throw some viewers off in spots and the film can be dark and discombobulated at times. Trying to follow the story between modern day and the flashbacks was confusing. Not knowing where the time line was going will leave some confused. Did all the craziness in Davis’ life really happen? or was it Hollywood license
We end up with Cheadle/Davis back on stage blowing his axe in patented ‘Miles style’. **Miles Davis died in 1991 at age 65 universally recognized as one of the most influential and innovative American musicians of the century, jazz or-no jazz.
POST Q & A WITH DON CHEADLE, EWAN MCGREGOR, EMAYATZY CORINEALDI
Per Don Cheadle on the basics of the films: It took him ten years to write the script for the movie and shot it all on a budget of 8.5 million dollars. The movie was shot in 6 weeks with 30 shooting days, pre production took 6 weeks and it was all shot in Cincinnati where afterwards they had to go in and cut out certain things like hills and change all the license plates to reflect it being in NYC.
He also wanted to make it perfectly clear that “It’s not a biopic” and he notes “I wanted to do Miles Davis. I wanted to do something crazy and make it like a composition of Miles’ life”. Cheadle chose to pick the time in Miles’ life when he had stepped out of writing and music. “You get to 1975 and he just shut it down” on Miles Davis’s music and impact.
Everything inspires Don Cheadle when it comes to his music, acting, and writing. “The most I could, I would stay in that character” Don Cheadle on being Miles. “The hardest part is staying healthy and getting through it” Don Cheadle on wearing so many hats while acting and directing the Miles Ahead movie.
For Ewan – him and Don met while in Rwanda back when Cheadle was shooting the heart-wrentching, but so well done film, ‘Hotel Rwanda’. They had arranged to meet at Ewan’s house to talk about this film and Ewan, being the motorbike guy he is, went for a ride, lost himself in it as you do, and was 1/2 way to Malibu when he suddenly remembered he had the meeting with Don..felt so bad and rode furiously fast to get back home to find Don just hanging out reading a magazine.
Had fun with it all, and noted that at times how odd it was as Don would be in character as Miles, directing Ewan as Miles, so really he had 2 directors on the project.
Don Cheadle counted on his entire crew to make sure the movie was being done right! There were no deleted scenes and there was one shot that was not in the movie Don Cheadle wanted to empower everyone on his crew.
Cheadle still continues to play the trumpet used in #MilesAhead, playing with the Roots recently. “I played this morning.” he noted.
And with that, the post-premiere party was one of the more fun ones I’ve attended. Had a great time meeting so many people and was lucky enough to meet, chat and have a fun time with someone I truly admire and adore – Mr. Michael Ealy. #bucketlistmeeting