It would be incredibly difficult to make an introduction, of any sort, to a man like Miles Davis, without mentioning first his sheer brilliance and innovation which he brought to the music world. So to try and get that brought to the big screen can be a bit of a challenge. Don Cheadle would be the man to try to get that done, and not by going through Davis’ entire life but rather a one tumultuous period in his career. It was an interesting move on Cheadle’s behalf who also co-wrote and directed the feature. But is it enough to please the hardcore fans?
In 1975, famed jazz musician Miles Davis (Cheadle) has been away from the public eye for five years. During his exile he spends his days on cocaine, alcohol, and recording for his own benefit. This lonely existence is then interrupted by rolling stones journalist Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor), who is eager to get a story on Miles, for what could be a very special comeback. Miles, taking no nonsense, storms down to the record company, and makes sure that people just leave him alone. Now that the word is out that Miles may have some recordings of some new music, it isn’t long before greedy executives start wondering where it is. Whilst in the meantime, still haunted by a past relationship with his ex, Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi), the jazz legend is in for a long night.
Don Cheadle was approached with this idea many years ago by members of Davis’ family, who believed that Cheadle was the perfect candidate for the role. And quite frankly they were right. He pulls off a very disgruntled, volatile, pessimistic character who just wants to wallow in his own self-pity. His work behind the camera is also quite impressive as the mix between the past and the then-present is quite intriguing when it begins to show details of his personal relationships. He really steals the show with the performance and just puts the other actors to shame.
The soundtrack itself is exactly as you would expect it; just pure smooth classic Miles Davis jazz. At times it felt like it gave the film an overall mellow vibe, even in moments of intensity. And although the story itself may be over the top, when it boils back down to it, it gets the man and the figure into a light that only glimpses some of the madness of the genius. Some scenes do stick out that just ruin the pace a bit. Every other character in the film knows exactly who Miles is. However, when there is one person who doesn’t, it throws in a racism card pretty much out of nowhere, which seemed completely uncalled for and just threw off the balance of the film.
I think fans of the man will not be disappointed. True fans, unlike myself, who know his music inside and out will appreciate the musical vibe and even the realism with which Cheadle looks like he is laying down those notes with such ease. Definitely a must for jazz fans and not a bad job on Cheadle’s part either.