The consensus on Cheadle’s biopic of Miles Davies seems to be Cheadle great, film a bit of a mess. It’s hard not to argue with that assessment. Biopics tend to go for the cradle to grave sweep, or the detailed, representative slice or have a particular theory they want to expound. While Cheadle deliberately (and wisely I think) wanted to avoid the first of these approaches, Miles Ahead doesn’t really replace it with anything else. It could have taken a microcosm approach, (eg using Ashley Kahn’s book on the making of Kind of Blue), but instead interweaves three or four story lines. One of these involves Ewan MacGregor’s Rolling Stone journalist, so the film could have opted for the interview as narrative tool, like End of the Tour. It doesn’t have a particular cinematic interpretation in relation to the music either, as Love and Mercy attempted. There doesn’t seem to be a strong sense of how it wants to approach the subject or the point it wants to make.
But the film is imbued with respect, love and admiration, and with a tighter script Cheadle will be a sympathetic and engaging director. I’m not sure there is a good, coherent Miles Davies biopic waiting to be made. Any such film will always fall short of the music, and the man himself. You’re inevitably left wondering, why don’t I just stick on Sketches of Spain?