Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.
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Miles Davis as... blaxploitation bad-ass (some of the time(?) Sure, why not?
I don't know how much of this movie is true. If you asked me in my heart of hearts, I don't really care to know - it'd be nice if it's ALL true, even the parts that are wildly outrageous and show Miles Davis as at times a super bad-ass like out of a Jack Hill movie or a character rising in the ranks of a Rudy Ray Moore vehicle (only a good actor, a really good one, and a good writer/director which helps) - and that's fine. It IS just a movie after all, and Cheadle understands as an actor for many years, and here a director, what an image can project: for most of this storyline Davis is in his 70's crazy-hair mode, all by himself in his massive apartment in New York city, sometimes on coke, sometimes not, and he'll dress sharp while distancing himself (though still projecting his "cool") in giant glasses. It's a similar thing as Elvis in the Elvis/Nixon movie from this month, only here it's not commented on so strongly.
I think the question people have going in is that 'this looks a little rougher and rawer, is it a typical biopic?' Yes and no. Yes in that the flashbacks, which show Miles' other obsession with his wife Frances (a very good Emayatzy Corinealdi, she holds her own in a mostly male cast sometimes with just a look like 'seriously?' like when Miles asks her to stop dancing and only be her husband). It's one of those love stories that you know will go south by nature of who Davis was, and in that sense it's not much different than many of the other biopics that involve a love story where things go south - it was other women (many others), and Cheadle maybe knows this and makes it obvious from the start: she sees Francis from across a street in a car while already with another woman and gets a 20 just to write his number down. Peachy!
To say Miles Davis was a groundbreaking artist and influential to upteenth thousands (tens of thousands, or more) musicians and other artists all over is something that is distant in the background but, wisely, is never stated. It doesn't have to be, and though Miles Davis liked the spotlight and attention he didn't need it or ever craved it. He played and played with other people (Gil Evans, Coltrane - how he found him and his telling of it is a brief aside in this movie that is perfect - Bill Evans, and so on), and people came to see him, but he didn't need to play for anyone, ever. But when it came to that one reel of tape, in the scope of this story, it becomes more about flexing his bad-assery to anyone around, including Ewan McGregor's journalist (think of End of the Tour if it was directed in the 70's by Jack Hill or something, and you get the idea).
So some of this is conventional, but it's mostly the flashbacks and, at the least, they are directed and acted with a go-for-broke fire that makes it watchable. The main storyline, however, is just awesome; Davis took s*** from no one, and yet there's a humbling/vulnerable factor to how Cheadle plays him and how Davis was; he had a hip problem and had to take a lot of pills, which messed with his mind (we see some of this unfold in the flashbacks, but also in the 'present' time it's set in the 70's), and so he walks with a limp. He never plays it too hard though, and Cheadle owning it in Davis makes it all the more compelling: like, 'yeah, I'm Miles Davis, f*** you, give me my (insert more streams of mother-effer) tape!
It may turn off those who only see it as a passion project, but I saw a lot more in it - crazy intensity, and a rhythm to the cutting and camera-work that made it more like a thriller than a typical rise-and-fall saga. Though I wish it were even better - it has the potential to be among the great jazz movies, not unlike the recent Born to be Blue, which also featured Davis - it's an entertaining ride through 70's-drenched paranoid, don't-give-a-f*** bravura filmmaking and style.
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