Film Review: Miles Ahead


Don Cheadle’s labour of love Miles Ahead is a sparky biopic that evades the mould of the genre.

Having not performed or released new music in years, Miles Davis is something of a recluse in the late 1970s. When a Rolling Stone reporter attempts to get a scoop, it forces Miles into action…

After many years of pre-production, the film Don Cheadle spent years to bring to the screen is here. Miles Ahead is a biopic of Miles Davis that focuses on a specific period of the musician’s life. The film concentrates on the late 1970s era, after Miles has taken a break from performing music. The film leads with Miles reluctance to return to the spotlight, despite the wishes of his record company.

Although Miles Ahead takes place in the late 1970s, the film features substantial flashbacks. Through these sequences, director, co-writer and star Don Cheadle illustrates key moments in Davis’ life. The emphasis appears to be on moments that shaped the protagonist, rather than career highs.

Miles Ahead keeps returning to Miles relationship with Frances. It doing so, Cheadle depicts the contrast in his protagonist; Miles is both a talented musician and a flawed character. The film does not shy away from depicting the negative aspects of the musician’s life. Miles Ahead begins with close up shots of Miles Davis being interviewed. These serve to give a sense of personality of the artist, and to show that Don Cheadle has got the ticks right. Don Cheadle gives a strong and convincing performance as Miles Davis. Emayatzy Corinealdi is appealing as Frances, whilst Ewan McGregor brings swagger to the role of Dave.

Miles Ahead is an energetic film; there is a sense the tone of the film hopes to replicate the style of the wonderful music. The success may be questionable, but the film exhibits Cheadle’s promise as a director.

Film Review: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3

Lashings of humour make Iron Man 3 an enjoyable ride. This may not be what all viewers expect, but it is the aspect that makes the film so entertaining.

Following the success of the Avengers initiative, Tony Stark is compulsively working to improve his technology. When a new threat hits close to home, Stark realises that he must concentrate on what matters the most and protect America from a deadly threat…

Iron Man 3 does not reinvent the wheel as far as superhero tropes are concerned. Themes of identity, revenge and power reign supreme. Without the humour, Iron Man 3 would have been very standard comic book movie fare. Moreover, there is a lack of genuine tension in Shane Black’s film. Thankfully, the comedy makes up for this.

The Iron Man 3 script is peppered with humour; the film is almost as much a comedy as it is an action blockbuster. Pacing in the film is fine, although it lacks the feeling of building up to a big climax. The narrative is pretty much what viewers will expect this far along in a blockbuster franchise. Iron Man 3 features the requisite twists and ambiguous characters.

The effects in the film are faultless. The finale does play out on a big scale, production-wise, although again it is lacking in the suspense viewers may hope for. The 3D looks fine, but fails to add significantly to the film.

Iron Man 3 sees Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle reprise their roles. Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley are good additions to the film.

Iron Man 3 is a good end to the trilogy, if this is all the Iron Man films there will be in this current series. Ardent fans may be surprised  by the direction taken by Shane Black, but it is a most entertaining movie.

Film Review: Flight

FlightDespite a strong central performance, Flight feels weighed down by its length, pacing and ultimately its execution.

Commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker saves a flight from a catastrophic disaster after a malfunction. An investigation into the crash leads to a troubling discovery. With everyone calling Whip a hero, things may not be exactly as they seem…

Robert Zemeckis’ Flight is a character study. The pivotal aspect of the film is the protagonist’s internal journey. Flight depicts alcoholism with the seriousness it deserves. Nevertheless, it does not rank as a classic film featuring this theme in the same way as The Lost Weekend for example.

Flight has an interesting first third, but by the end the film feels laboured. Whip is an engaging character, but the overlong narrative does not make the film itself compelling. The side strands of Flight are not particularly well conceived. There seems to be a lack of attention given to this element. When a film is as long as Flight is, this is rather important.

Director Robert Zemeckis executes the crash sequence with aplomb. It is tense, and the cutting between the captain’s cabin and the rest of the plane works very well. It is a shame that the rest of the film does not match up to it. Production values are good overall, but the song choices are terribly clichéd.

Denzel Washington delivers a powerful as Whip Whitaker. His performance is certainly stronger than the material he has to work with. John Goodman provides amusing support in a small role, while Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle are well cast in their respective roles.

Flight is by no means a terrible film, but is far from being an excellent one. Denzel Washington is the bright spot.

Film Review: The Guard

Initially, the premise does not sound overly appealing, given that the ‘fish out of water’ narrative has been done to death. Nevertheless, The Guard quickly disperses any apprehension; it is an extremely well-executed film.

Sergeant Gerry Boyle is an apathetic Irish police officer who tends not to do things by the book. He is annoyed to be joined by a new officer from Dublin, Aidan McBride. The duo discover a murder, which has links to a drug-smuggling operation. Boyle is forced to team up with FBI agent Wendell Everett in order to investigate the crime…

The Guard boasts a fantastic script by John Michael McDonagh, who also directs the film. Characters are well written and the dialogue is peppered with wit. The film shows an admirable level of self-awareness. There are frequent references to the bad guys being aware that they are villains, or how the film fits into the crime film mould, for example.

The film is frequently humorous, some of which is black. In certain places, some may find the jokes a little close to the bone, but most will relish the comedic aspects of The Guard. These work well against the rather melancholy tone of both the incidents and the backdrop.

While the story may seem like another tale of an unlikely duo, in reality it offers much more than this. The beauty of the writing is in its deception. The film initially appears quite straightforward, but as it develops it is clear that there is more to it. The same can be said of protagonist Boyle. His character is succinctly introduced by the opening sequence. However, Boyle develops throughout the film, and appears truly three-dimensional. Given his authenticity, it is difficult to judge what action he will take later in the film.

Performances in the film are great. Nonetheless, it is Brendan Gleeson who steals the show as Boyle. Gleeson embodies the character, giving a tremendously strong performance. Elsewhere, Mark Strong is decent as the knowingly caricatured Clive, while Don Cheadle brings presence as Wendell. Fionnula Fanagan is also great as Boyle’s ailing mother Eileen.

There is a grainy, naturalistic look to the film, which is highlighted by the Galloway setting. The cinematography really emphasises the ordinariness of the locale, contrasting it with frequent mentions of big cities such as London and Dublin.

The Guard is a great watch, with exemplary writing and performances. It is an excellent showcase of McDonagh’s talents.

Film Review: Brooklyn’s Finest

In one of the opening scenes of the film, Richard Gere practices committing suicide with an unloaded gun.  No, all those gerbil rumours haven’t gotten too much for him. Rather, this scene is emblematic of the themes and tone of Brooklyn’s Finest.

Antoine Fuqua’s film follows the stories of three cops, all in different stages of their career. Although, for the most part, their stories are unconnected, they work on the same dangerous and jaded streets…

Brooklyn’s Finest works well as an absorbing crime drama, although the outlook is decidedly bleak. The streets of the precinct are devoid of hope, and each cop appears jaded in their own particular way.

In one respect, the film highlights the dangerous realities of being a cop in a place such as Brooklyn. Sal and his friends lament that they are worth more to their families dead rather than alive, due to the $100,000 payout their relatives would receive. On the other hand, however, the film is satiated with graphic violence. Thus the realities of the situation are off-set with the sometimes gratuitous violence. It does not seem a coincidence that characters are frequently shown playing video games, as the action of the film appears to resemble one, at times.

Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke all give solid performances. It is perhaps Hawke who excels most, as his frustration at not being able to provide for his family garners the most sympathy. Elsewhere, Wesley Snipes delivers a star turn as Caz, a recently released convict; a role that seems to have been written for Snipes. In this testosterone-filled film, women with significant roles are hard to come by; most cast are either prostitutes or dancers. Ellen Barkin is convincingly unlikable in the only powerful female role.

Overall, Brooklyn’s Finest is a film that delivers, but is also one that offers no real surprises from the director of Training Day. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Brooklyn’s Finest is a well-crafted drama. But for all its hints of early Scorsese (the themes of crime, the city and Catholicism), the film lacks the magic that would elevate it to ‘classic’ status.