Biopic 'Miles Ahead' Fails to Capture What Made the Jazz Icon So Special

Poet and scholar Quincy Troupe has authored two books about Miles Davis. He penned Davis’ autobiography and also wrote a book about his friendship with the jazz icon. Troupe’s books reflect his friendship with Davis, one of his heroes while he was growing up in St. Louis, and show how deeply he understood the man and his music. 

Miles Ahead, a new biopic directed by Don Cheadle, compares rather unfavorably as it fails to capture what made Davis so special. Instead, the film, which opens area-wide today, focuses too much on his drug use and womanizing as it creates an impressionistic portrait.

Cheadle, who co-wrote the script with Steven Baigelman, Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson, tries to capture one short period in Davis’ life. Davis (Cheadle) has essentially locked himself into isolation as he continues to work on a studio album. He won’t let anyone at his record label listen to the tape that he keeps under lock and key. And he’s running out of money because the label won’t pay him until he hands over the tape.

When Dave (Ewan McGregor), a brash Rolling Stone reporter, knocks on his door with the hopes of getting an exclusive interview, Davis first delivers a knockout blow, sending the guy to his knees. But he then recruits him to drive him around town to score drugs and shake down the Columbia execs for the money he says they owe him.

Cheadle bares a striking physical resemblance to Davis and even speaks like him, adopting a hoarse voice for the film’s duration. His outfits are appropriately flamboyant too.

In addition, Cheadle assembled a stellar band to play the music — a who’s who of jazz players performs vigorously over the closing credits.

But too much of the movie comes off as some half-baked caper that doesn’t reveal anything about Davis or the incredible music he made.  Anyone interested in truly learning more about Davis would be better off checking out Troupe's books.
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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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