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Miles Ahead - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Miles Ahead
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B-

A title like Miles Ahead is tricky -- it seems to want to present the movie as something greater than it is. This movie isn't bad, but it's not "miles ahead" of anything in particular.

Full disclosure: I know next to nothing about jazz music, let alone about Miles Davis himself. I know he was famous, and I never saw any reason to question the legitimacy of his legacy. I know he's revered by other musicians. Beyond that, I can only judge this film based on what it is: a film. It does seem curious, though, that the movie contains so little finished music. The audience is treated to the real Miles Davis performing during the closing credits, indicating his endorsement. But the story up to then, in this movie, rarely shows him, or any other musician, doing anything more than noodling with instruments, particularly a trumpet.

It's less a musician biopic than, as Ewan McGregor put it in the March issue of Rolling Stone, "an attempt to cast Miles in a caper flick that he might like to have been part of." Calling it a "caper flick" does make more sense. McGregor plays a fictional Rolling Stone reporter trying to get a story on Davis in the middle of a five-year hiatus that is increasingly frustrating for his record label. He has a tape recording of a session that the label is obsessed with getting their hands on, and at different points different characters get their hands on the tape -- one of those old reel-to-reel ones, in a canister -- with Davis, the reporter in tow, always in pursuit.

I'm not sure Miles Away really knows what genre it wants to be. This is a movie about a famous singer, entirely fictionalized, which includes a car chase / gun fight.

It's also the feature directorial debut of Don Cheadle, who plays the title character -- and he's more than decent at it. No one's going to be throwing any Academy Award nominations at him for it, but he does make you forget you're looking at Don Cheadle. He's even made to look so much like Miles Davis that when the real Davis appears during the end credits, it takes a minute to realize you're not watching Cheadle anymore.

It's an engaging story, if not one that makes a deep impression. It has some very odd editing, with visual transitions between scenes that create parallels between different character's movements as one shot cuts to the next, but this happens curiously often as a transition between scenes with characters that have no immediate relevance to each other. As such, Miles Away gets a little carried away with stylistic flourishes that do nothing to enhance the experience. Occasionally they are slightly confusing.

Cheadle clearly cared about what he was making, though, and that helps. Miles Away isn't a waste of time. But if you come to it hoping for some kind of depth of understanding of Miles Davis himself, you'll find yourself wanting. Perhaps someone else will make that movie -- it would certainly be justified. This movie, the one we actually have here now, is adequate entertainment with solid performances.

Don Cheadle is just ahead rather than MILES AHEAD of Ewan McGregor in this movie

Overall: B
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