Bohemian Rhapsody was first announced back in 2010, with Sacha Baron-Cohen set to star as Freddie Mercury. It seemed the perfect casting, with the outrageous and confident Cohen to move away from his comedic-lead career and tackle one of the most iconic music stars to ever live. But in July 2013, Cohen left the project over ‘creative differences’ and the movie came to a halt. It seemed that whoever would eventually play the Queen icon could never live up to the tantalising possibility of what Cohen’s interpretation could be. Then came Rami Malek.
Malek transforms in to Freddie Mercury, in a performance to live up to the man he is portraying, but the on-set troubles that have surrounded the film are on clear display throughout. The Mr. Robot star is nothing short of a revelation, yet the story is underwhelming and the film has serious pacing and editing issues.
Cut to December 2017, Director Bryan Singer (X-Men, Usual Suspects) was fired for absence and clashing with the cast and crew; so Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) was hired to complete the film, although Singer still retained sole director credit. We’ll most likely never know exactly who directed what scenes, but there is a real sense of two styles of directing clashing. Some scenes are expertly done, with minimal cuts and gorgeous framework, whilst other scenes felt basic and uninspired.
The story follows rock band Queen, most notably lead singer Freddie Mercury, and chronicles the years leading up to the band’s legendary appearance at the 1985 Live Aid concert.
The film speeds through proceedings far too quickly, with Queen’s rise to fame being particularly rushed during act one. Suddenly, there is then a strong focus on Mercury’s wife and his on-off relationship with his manager. With the outlandish life that Mercury lived, these two central stories shouldn’t have had more than 20 minutes of screen time, but both take up a large part of the middle act. You can certainly see what they were going for, as they are clearly trying to show the audience that despite the fame and fortune, Freddie was ultimately very lonely.
Nevertheless, whenever the music takes centre stage, the film comes to life. Watching these superstars create some of the most unique music of modern times is a delight to watch unfold. The entire segment dedicated to the band creating Bohemian Rhapsody is a clear stand out, an immense pleasure in watching these men create one of the most iconic songs of all time.
All four members are superb but this is very much Malek’s show. He is mesmerising throughout, nailing the weird yet irresistible persona that was Freddie Mercury. It’s a flawless interpretation, especially during the Live Aid set which is almost identical to the real performance. It’s this final Live Aid performance that ends the film on a real high. Beautifully staged, wonderfully choreographed and a delight to watch on the big screen, it pays a great tribute to the band whilst still keeping a cinematic feel.
Fans of Queen looking to have a fun time at the cinema will not be disappointed. This is a feel-good biopic which sugar-coats a lot of the darker elements of Freddie and the band. However, I would’ve really liked to have seen Mercury’s past explored more, with further risks being taken on the story. The final product is just too generic and ordinary to be as good as it should’ve been, and Queen were far from ordinary.
Verdict: Underwhelming and safe, the film still gets by thanks to the music and the brilliance of Malek as Mercury. Unlike the song, Bohemian Rhapsody the film is sadly no masterpiece.
Best Moment: The climatic Live Aid performance is spellbinding