Movie Review: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilyn Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leach, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker
Plot: Farrokh Bulsara is an ambitious performer who becomes Freddie Mercury, one of the most unique and talented frontmen in rock history. Over the course of his life we see him reach the heights of mega-stardom the depths of depravity.
Review: So you want to make a movie about, and cast, one of the most beloved and remarkable musicians and performers of the modern era? One of the most distinct figures in music whose style was not restricted by genre or formula?
Sure, no problem.
Enter Rami Malek. The actor has been filling out bit parts in the Twilight and Night at the Museum franchises and a starring role in interactive slasher movie video game Until Dawn. Then in 2015, he picked up the lead role in dark hacker drama Mr. Robot, catching the attention of major players. When Sacha Baron Cohen stepped down from the daunting role of Freddie Mercury following creative disagreements, Rami Malek came up to the plate and smashed it out of the park.
Malek’s embodiment of Mercury’s physicality, mannerisms, stage presence and look is so perfect that we caught ourselves thinking we were looking at the real thing. He’ll need to clear some space on his mantle for the awards that are going to pour in because he is excellent. If you’re a fan of Mecury’s musical achievements then this is worth the price of admission.
It’s fortunate that the lead performance is so impressive and the subject matter fascinating in its own right, as the story is downright generic. For a band that prided itself on defying formula this film diligently ticks all the boxes of the basic music biopic. It almost replicates Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story in how cliched the script feels, right down to the ‘coughing-blood-into-a-tissue’ reveal of Mercury’s fatal illness (I don’t remember tuberculosis playing into things…). Director Bryan “Massive Creep” Singer takes a very measured hand with the direction, adding only an occasional bit of visual flair that only stand out for how infrequently they appear.
It’s also a narrow perspective. We never get a sense of the full story as we are joined at the hip to Freddie Mercury. Other members of the band Queen mention having gotten wives and kids but they are all but absent from the screen. Other key players in Mercury’s life – such as managers and his controller partner Paul – never have their stories examined in any way.
Besides the director, the production team have outdone themselves in recreating the costumes and settings of the decades in which the story takes place. Watching the band progress through the 70s and 80s is a lot of fun. The impeccable recreation of the 1985 Live Aid performance is especially impressive.
Whilst the story is run of the mill the film is generously elevated by the subject matter. Queen have engrained themselves in our culture and you’d be hard pressed to find someone unfamiliar with at least one of their songs. Mercury himself has been a source of curiosity for decades, not least due to the circumstances of his death. With Malek at helm it’s a fun ride that is hard not to enjoy.
Oh, and Mike Myers easily takes gold for the funniest pop culture reference in history.
Rating: EIGHT out of TEN