+the scene

Don Cheadle's 'Miles Ahead' Promises a Fresh Spin on the Biopic Genre!

Written by Greg McIver. Published: February 08 2016


A journalist from Rolling Stone Magazine arrives at the home of Jazz pioneer Miles Davis with the intention of writing his comeback story. The year is 1979, and for 5 long years, the world has been without new material from the legendary musician. At this point, if we continue to follow the formula, Mr. Brill would be let in (perhaps after some resistance) and we’d get some line about needing to start at the beginning to fully understand -- we all know the drill. But instead of that, Dave Brill and the standard operating procedures for most biopics receive a swift punch in the face. To view said punching, please see the trailer below.




Jazz -- or "Social Music", as Miles calls it -- is an organized chaos that can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. For me, Jazz is a gateway to a world of dimly-lit nightclubs choked with cigarette smoke and filled with cool kats and gorgeous women. And when the band isn’t playing, the smooth talk and the clinking of ice against glass make their own type of music. It can be a gateway to another time or a dance that seems like it will never end. It’s one of my favorite genres of music, and it goes without saying that Miles Davis was a genius in this particular genre. Don Cheadle is also an admirer of Davis, and with his directorial debut, Miles Ahead, he aims to pay tribute to him with some organized chaos of his own.


Don Cheadle had long been interested in playing the raspy-voiced trumpeter, who gave to the world Kind of Blue and many other great jazz albums, ever since Davis’s nephew proclaimed that Cheadle was the only man whom he could see portraying his uncle on the big screen. When Mr. Cheadle came to the Davis Family with ideas about how to bring Miles’s story to the screen, it became clear to him and everyone else that if this unique idea was going to remain unique and arrive in theaters unscathed by the familiar trimmings of a biopic, then Mr. Cheadle would have to assume directing duties as well. Well, after many years of hard work and a spot of crowdfunding, audiences will finally get to see the final product on the 1st of April.


The film, again, will focus on a time in 1979 when Miles Davis was just coming out of lengthy creative dry spell. A comeback album had been produced but stolen, and it was up to Miles and the writer from Rolling Stone, played by Ewan McGregor, to retrieve it. Gunplay, fisticuffs, and jazz music abound in this high-energy tale that promises audiences an education through action. We will of course get some glimpses into his past too, and from the looks of the trailer, some surrealist trickery will also be employed (a younger version of Miles plays a tune in a boxing ring while his older self fights on the floor below) to amp up the proceedings. Don Cheadle has claimed many times that this is not going to be a traditional presentation of a celebrity’s life, so if you’re anticipating the 90-minute flashback or the seesaw between past and present with an interview or quiet self-reflection being the focal point, then, according to Mr. Cheadle, you’ll have to look elsewhere.


If you’re not at all familiar with jazz or Miles Davis, then you will have the opportunity for some mighty fine learnin’ on April 1st. Meanwhile, myself and other fans will be listening to some Bitches Brew in anticipation of a film that promises great music, great performances, and a whole lot of attitude.


(Screenshot via YouTube)


- Greg McIver, YH Contributing Writer