Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead Receives Mixed Reviews

Don Cheadle portrays famed trumpeter Miles Davis in Miles Ahead.
Featured image from Google Images, labeled for reuse.

By Phillip Martin

Miles Ahead, a film in which Don Cheadle portrays legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, debuted in theaters two Fridays ago. The film, directed and co-written by Cheadle, received mixed reviews.

You can find one example of a mixed review in Angelica Jade Bastien’s reaction on Overall, she rated the film at four and a half stars.

Bastien praised Miles Ahead for it “turning a light into the darkest corners of [Miles Davis’] soul while still giving him added complexity with dashes of lurid humor and the flashbacks that show him at better times.”

However, Bastien said she didn’t like that some camera shots captured scenes out of focus at times. She also criticized the plot and the writing, adding, “There’s one too many fired guns, car chases, overcooked moments overloaded with machismo, and bloodied fist for it to stay grounded emotionally.”

In a separate review, Michael Phillips, of the Chicago Tribune, also mentions about the main plot. Phillips summarizes that Cheadle as Davis, with his drug problems and issues at home, recklessly tries to retrieve a stolen demo tape and develops a relationship with a fictional Rolling Stone reporter, portrayed by Ewan McGregor.

“A lot of this is made up, even more than usual for a musical biopic,” Phillips said of the plot. “I don’t have a problem with that, but you might.”

The Chicago Tribune columnist later said he liked the film because of Cheadle’s performance. 

“The reason I like “Miles Ahead,” despite its problems, has everything to do with Cheadle both behind and in front of the camera,” he said.

“He treats this chapter of Davis’ life like a page or two torn out of the late-blaxploitation era, with car chases and drug deals. Those pages are shuffled, intriguingly, with pages from a very different part of Davis’ life, the “Kind of Blue” part,” he adds. Kind of Blue by Davis, which Phillips referenced, is considered one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time.

Bastien and Phillips both pointed out the plot that seemed to be loosely based on Davis’ life.

Cheadle earlier told The New York Times that the film would not be a typical biopic. “If you make a movie about Miles Davis, it’s got to be gangster, it’s got to be a heist movie, it’s got to be crazy … It’s got to be as creative and varied and visceral as all of his music is,” said the Golden Globe award winner.

Other media sources endorsed Miles Ahead, including the popular aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. At last check this Friday evening, 70 percent of Tomatometer critics gave the film a positive review. The website has tallied a total of 80 reviews. Additionally, the film received an average rating of 6.3 out of 10.

I have yet to go see the film, and now after seeing numerous reactions, I think I’ll wait ’til it goes on DVD.

To learn a little more about the film’s premise and about the real Miles Davis, check out the article I wrote two weeks ago.

Also, look out next week as I rank 12 of the 15 CD albums by jazz, funk, and R&B pianist Brian Culbertson.


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