In 1970, Farrokh Bulsara – who would become better known as Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) – attended a performance by a band, after which he met their guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy). Joined by bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), they formed Queen, which would become one of most legendary rock bands of all time, their rising career culminating in the Live Aid performance they gave in 1985.
Its messy development and filming aside, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is utterly fabulous and offers an uplifting movie experience. Its account of Queen’s rising music career feels worthy of the iconic band and Rami Malek stuns as the legendary Freddie Mercury.
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ starts off well and holds the audience throughout, using Farrokh’s struggle to ‘break free’ as its kick-off. The film’s message is about exploring who you are and staying loyal to yourself, even against adversities such as familial pressures. It’s also about love (of yourself as well as others), friendship, loyalty, and realising what you have. They’re time-old lessons but heart-warming ones, and that is exactly how you feel leaving the cinema after that epic Live Aid finale.
Malek brings Freddie’s joy of performing to life and beguiles. Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello are all excellent as his bandmates, although one criticism that can be directed at the film is that, in spite of sequences that show their contributions to the production of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and to the conception of ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, it doesn’t quite accomplish balance in the attention to Queen’s four members that creative consultants Brian May and Roger Taylor likely wanted. Still, the focus on Freddie, between his family background, the history of his relationship with Mary Austin (watch out for ‘Sing Street’ star Lucy Boynton here), and increasingly extravagant lifestyle provoked by a deep-rooted sense of unhappiness, provides the most interesting story.
The movie’s supporting cast extends to Irish talent Aidan Gillen as John Reid, and Allen Leech as Paul Prenter, as well as Tom Hollander in the role of Jim Beach and Mike Myers as EMI exec Ray Foster. They fill out the talent nicely and work well as supporters who indisputably believe in the band’s potential and are relentless (and competitive) in their commitment to it.
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is far from a revolutionary musical biopic. It is a bit long though it doesn’t drag and probably relies a little too much on Queen’s music, which elates on its own. Its finale though is a wonder, with Malek’s performance going beyond everything you’d expect. It ends on a high note in every sense of the word, and by the end, you really don’t want it to stop now.