Don Cheadle takes the often-staid musician’s biopic and turns it on its head with Miles Ahead,
a presumed account of Miles Davis’ life somewhere between 1975 and 1980, when he was hiding out in his New York mansion, high on cocaine and playing not a note. When Rolling Stone reporter David Braden (Ewan McGregor) shows up with the aim to write a comeback story—there’s a mythical tape, new music recorded, that Davis won’t give to his label—the movie unfurls into a thrilling study of a mad genius, complete with a guns-and-car-chase section. (What Miles Ahead
does share with every predecessor is that with genius comes great assholery.) Davis is played by Cheadle with a frayed rasp, wild hair and wilder disposition—the only time weakness appears on his defiant face is when he thinks of his lost love Frances (Emayatzy Corinealdi), who he drove away with drugs, violence and cheating. Cheadle, who has been shepherding this project for so long he had time to properly learn Davis’ trumpet parts, makes his feature directorial debut with more visual panache than most actors crossing over for the first time. It’s kinetic, assured and interesting, and features a nicely comic performance by McGregor in the straight man role. Cheadle’s heart is all-in on this one, and it shows.