Miles Ahead – DVD & Blu-Ray Review

When it comes to musical biopics, we all know the drill. You take a talented but hot-headed musician, flesh out his backstory and (hopefully) unhappy childhood, pepper his teen years with the lure of glitz and glam of fame, add an abusive figure in his life, get him a record deal, and watch him fritter it away with excessive drug us and a troubled marriage, only to come back in a redemptive arc.

Now, kid, you have a bona fide musical biopic that’s gonna make you a star kid. A star!

The tried and tested formula has become the tired and tested formula. As with most things in Hollywood, a great film must be redone, rehashed, and packaged to the masses without a care for originality. When a biopic, however, comes along with a melodious fresh tune, it’s like music to our ears…

Can recent movie Miles Ahead play the right notes?

Actor turned director Don Cheadle helms this new musical biopic that revolves around acclaimed but troubled trumpeter Miles Davis has he tries to make a return to music. With moments of his life peppering his modern day to day life, his rise to fame, a turbulent marriage to dancer, and his life riddled with drugs and mental unpredictability. In later years, during his silent period, Davis encounters a Rolling Stones reporter and the pair team up to hunt a missing tap of the musicians…

The skittish and feverish portrayal of Davis on the rocks of his life, disregarding his talent for the pursuit of easy fixes such as drugs and women. Though teetering on an overtly done narrative of a damaged idol, Cheadle ferociously imbues the film with a passionate, astute, and engaging subject. Which is by the by, Cheadle is an undeniably underrated actor who can master comedy and drama but also draw back his performance to gift the character a sense of realism. Owning both the control of the character in front of and behind the screen, Cheadle underplays Davis yet emotes and embellishes the musician with a rigorous awareness.

The annoying element of Miles Ahead is not the somewhat underdeveloped ploy to get him onto the big screen, no matter how uniquely Cheadle wields his cinematic device. It’s that more shocking parts of his story are woefully skimmed over such as his mental instability and the abuse against his wife. Which, by the way, is an exhaustive narrative with famed folk who have are violent against their spouses yet always seen with glossy eyed acclaim. Here, Cheadle never lingers on Davis’ faults to make them sink in and cultivate the character, meaning the positive non-linear narrative approach is gravely detrimental to the character development.

With Ewan McGregor’s trailing and conniving writer Dave Braden adding a layer of infuriation as he trails Davis around, Miles Ahead falls short of its titular promise. Still caught in the talons of cliché, there is a lot of promise here that is squandered by treading familiar and confusing territory. A sad blow for film…


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