Monday, 25 April 2016
REVIEW: MILES AHEAD
100 Minutes. Starring: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Keith Stanfield & Michael Stuhlbarg. Director: Don Cheadle.
One day my biopic will come. That must have been kind of blue, going round young prince Don Cheadle's mind like notes over the 10 years he worked on this pure, poetic passion project like a War Machine. Now Colonel Jim Rhodes is using that 'Civil War' money to do battle with the music industry all for his muse...and we aint just talking about Francis. This is 'Miles Ahead'. Don Cheadle doesn't just embody Miles Davis, he goes that extra mile writing and directing him. With this Milestone he adds a production credit to his quintet of storytelling, but goes further down the road of Davis' life than being such an amazing actor. This is beyond the bones of a regular biopic were you're left thinking and forgetting that it's actually an actor on screen and not the real thing, like Jamie in 'Ray', or Black Panther, 'Team Iron Man', 'Captain America' avenging co-star Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in 'Get On Up'...or the first major league black baseball player Jackie Robinson in '42'. This is the man who also played Sammy Davis Jr's best since the heartbreakingly raw 'Hotel Rwanda'. Did you forget this 'Oceans Eleven' Rat Pack member and Marvel team player was one of the best actors around? Behind the notes this story of the best jazz musician of all-time doesn't look at the whole songsheet, more one line of music. But boy does he play the f### out of it! Miles once jammed with the late, great, dearly departed Prince on some unreleased material that will likely never see the light of day and fittingly this look of the genre king focuses on his literal life and death fight for the rights to his own music he has slaved over. Think this man just gave up for half a decade? NO! This cat literally would have died for his passion...by the gun. Now would one of your favourite big talking rappers who wouldnt have a voice if it wasn't for this raspy one do that? Didn't think so! Sure the narrative here may be all over the place like the man himself...but that's just jazz man!
It's a beautiful thing. Just one chapter of a sensational story that deserves your verse. And Cheadle writes it so well. Leaving you wishing for more footnotes to preface this than his Iron Man sidekick has sequels. Still like a Rolling Stone its his partner in crime Ewan McGregor who gets it all down for the record here. Playing a weed and tweeded out journalist looking for the diary of Davis' innermost influences and innervisions, Ewan is on the form of his career, like he was an actor all anew. With hair longer than his 'Star Wars' time in a galaxy far, far away from a barbershop and hitting drugs harder than 'Trainspotting', McGregor runs with the time and tide, look and feel of this era perfectly. The man who is about to go to the desert to play both Jesus Christ and the devil is on both shoulders of Miles as they kick in the door of record company offices scarily hilariously and Starskey and Hutch themselves round exciting but stakes lead car chases and gunfights. And just wait until he dukes it out with jazz's Ali over a punching bag. It's actually a nice moment, training you for the metaphors of life. It seems like they have to bob and weave from everybody. 'Boardwalk Empire', 'Hugo', 'Men In Black 3', 'Doctor Strange' and everything else actor/Joaquin Phoenix lookalike Michael Stuhlbarg furthers his wide net, character actor catalogue by playing an exec as shady as the 'tache and 70's sunglasses he hides behind. Whilst 'Selma' and 'Straight Outta Compton' rising star Keith Stanfield, who played Snoop Dogg so well furthers his range as a junked out musician with perhaps as much perplexed paranoia as he has substance of talent. Yet its the remarkable Emayatzy Corinealdi who plays Davis' funny valentine Francis...the beautiful woman on the iconic cover of Miles Davis' 'Someday My Prince Will Come' who really is a queen worthy of a king and every magazine cover, not just viynl. Proving this film of great loves is just as much for Bess as it is Porgy.
Yet from classic compositions on wax to critics articles printed on press, the realest ish wrote here is Cheadle's love letter to the Don of Jazz. "If you're gonna tell a story man, tell it with attitude", Miles used to say and boy does Don tell it right from the script to the directors chair. The 'House Of Lies' actor is the truth here. Genuinely no one else could portray this legend in this instantly iconic role. It's a perfect personification. Steamin' and workin' with quiet, yet fierce intensity, from the timbre of his grit in your eye gravelly voice to the tenor of his mood as unpredictable as where the next note out of his trumpet will go. Even if the autobiography history of the man isn't played out first hand. It's captured in those hauntingly piercing eyes that run for Miles, caught perfectly by Cheadle first-person. That's where the soul lies. And it's given real heart from actor to subject whose read, heard and felt it all. It's more than the look from the Nat King Cole smart 'Kind Of Blue' age to the James Brown funky, fresh dressed 'Bitches Brew' era. Speaking of which this actor/writer/directing triple threat is even more instrumental as he learns how to blow in the wind and play Social Music like the man that could move hands like he could fingers. Look for a neon illuminating end in concert with the legendary likes of Herbie Hancock to see how this man performs like he doesn't play. It's the baddest thing on film...if you dig it! It almost sounds as great as the man himself...and that's the point. From Chet Baker (look out for Ethan Hawke's dark depth turn behind brass that is 'Born To Be Blue') to John Coltrane's love supreme nobody could touch Davis...for well, you know a million of those things. But Cheadle comes close. This is even greater than 'Mo' Better Blues' with all due respect to the duet of Denzel Washington and Spike Lee. But here collaborating with the spirit of this jazz master, Don Cheadle does it all. From the 'Sketches of Spain' to the etches of pain, his writing hits the highest sixteenth, his dynamic direction brings all the players cohesively and creatively, all back together again like an encore. But one more time...it's just that look! Wow! And we aren't just talking about the dress of a closet only Prince could attest. Or the moves and mannerisms that are just Miles. Cheadle is ahead of it all. Don is the cool. TIM DAVID HARVEY.