Monday, 18 April 2016


From the imagination of its makers, Miles Ahead imagines its own Miles Davis biopic. Don Cheadle's fantasy is no stronger, nor stranger, than Davis' own reality, but his film is engaging, stylistically sound, and richer than its ramshackle demeanour might suggest. Writing, directing, starring and even playing his own trumpet solos, Cheadle asserts his artistic identity through the film, just as the film depicts its subject's struggle to defend his, as his star wanes and his talent becomes more of a commodity. Davis is, and was, a cultural icon, and the obsessive, all-consuming desire to protect his status as such is what lies at either end of Miles Ahead's caper plot, both driving it and fulfilling it. Interspersing this are extended flashbacks to Davis' prime, edited into the story with equal panache and perceptiveness. Cheadle reconfigures the biopic here, obfuscating its truths with wishful wonder, intimating that the specifics of the story are meaningless - it's the end effect that matters most. In his film's order of play, certain scenes take on certain significance in certain orders, and the sequence of events is astute to its subject's imagined emotional state. It's a supposed story of one person's own story of their own life, their identity as they choose to define it, a biopic within a film that otherwise wholly rejects standard biopic conventions. For all its invention, Miles Ahead is altogether too throwaway to truly acknowledge its power and its potential. But those things exist in the moment, if not entirely in the memory. Take a leaf from Don Cheadle's book, and make of it what you will.