Miles Ahead28 Apr 2016
During the end credits of Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle, as Miles Davis, jams with Robert Glasper, Gary Clark, Wayne Shorter, Esparanza Spaulding and Herbie Hancock. I wanted to watch that jam session for hours. In those 5 or 6 minutes, I got more joy, feeling and emotionality than the rest of the film combined. That’s not to say there weren’t good moments in the film, but in its attempt at an impressionistic version of a biopic, it failed to land some of its punches.
Cheadle, as writer, director and actor, clearly had his mind set on a film that drew more formal and structural inspiration from its subject than biographic detail. Cheadle set out to create a film that had the genre innovation of Miles Davis’ music. The film is jazz-like in its lack of adherence to convention. But what Cheadle was attempting may just have been impossible to accomplish in a mass-market Hollywood biopic. What Davis accomplished as a musician, Cheadle was not able to accomplish as a film maker. That’s an absurdly high bar to set and an impossible standard to achieve, I admit, but it would be unfair not to evaluate this film for what it was trying to accomplish. Cheadle’s acting was phenomenal, the music sublime, but little else rose to the occasion.