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DVD Review: Miles Ahead

July 19, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Miles Ahead DVDA longtime passion project for Don Cheadle, who directs and stars in the film as Miles Davis, Miles Ahead offers a look at the legendary musician and jazz trumpeter at two different stages in his complicated life, both at the height of his career and in the midst of a downward spiral.

The through line of the film is intrepid reporter Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor), who is chasing the story of his comeback, and ends up embroiled in the schemes of a sleazy record producer (Michael Stuhlbarg) trying to steal the tape from a recording session.  Through flashbacks, we see his failed relationship with Frances Taylor (Emaytzy Corinealdi), and what led him to give up music for five years in the first place.

Instead of taking the average beat-by-beat biopic approach to his life, Miles Ahead has a rhythm all its own, capturing the kinetic energy of Miles Davis as both a person and musician, with his volatile temper illustrated by a fractured narrative that jumps between scenes and time periods.  Don Cheadle fully embodies both his brilliance and off-kilter nature, delivering dedicated work in front of and behind the camera that keeps us watching.  Ewan McGregor is also excellent, often playing the straight man in this mismatched duo.

Although it helps to have some context on the life of Miles Davis beforehand, or at the very least an appreciation for his brilliance as a musician, Miles Ahead is a stylish and often entertaining musical drama, that does justice to his legacy and moves to an appropriately jazzy beat.

The DVD also includes commentary with Don Cheadle and co-writer Steven Baigelman, a featurette on the real Miles Davis, and a Q&A with the main cast from the Sundance Film Festival.

Miles Ahead is a Sony Pictures Classics release.  It’s 101 minutes and rated 14A.

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