Bohemian Rhapsody

An uplifting and electrifying encore to some of Queen’s best music and a salute to the man that made it all happen.

Are you ready? Are you ready for this?

The world’s population in 1985 was well over four billion people. That same year, close to two billion people across 150 countries witnessed one of the greatest performances in the history of live music. It would also be one of the last performances by British rock band Queen, led by singer, songwriter and the greatest frontman of all time – Freddie Mercury. That was Live Aid and that’s old news now. Bohemian Rhapsody serves as a biopic into the short but brilliant life of Mercury, his music, his struggles as a person and the choices he had to make at a time when society wasn’t so liberal. Yet no matter what you know or how much you love the sound of their music, nothing can prepare you for the final twenty minutes, or the 20 most important minutes in Mercury’s life. For every Gen X or pre-millennial watching this film, this is the closest any of us will come to seeing Freddie Mercury and Queen perform on stage. Again.

The film begins and ends with Mercury in his iconic acid jeans and wife-beater vest at Live Aid. In between, we follow the transformation of Farrokh Bulsara from a shy baggage handler at Heathrow airport to the rock legend he would become. A brief and early segment tells us about his conservative Parsi-Indian upbringing, which ultimately serves as an important arc to the two sides of Freddie Mercury – the musical genius and the man in the closet. In retrospect, this is a very important part of Mercury’s life that the film either gets right or terribly wrong. That’s because the film is content in revealing Mercury’s relationship with his girlfriend and then wife Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). She was everything to him and the film respects that. But when Mercury gets seductive looks from other men, we are only given a hint of his confusion that questions his sexual orientation. As it seems, Bohemian Rhapsody has little interest in Mercury’s personal life with other men and nothing more than mere implication. Instead, the focus is and where it should be – the camaraderie with bandmates Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon – their love, joy, hate and heartbreak during the course of Queen’s ascent into the household name it is today.

If Bohemian Rhapsody feels underdeveloped at times, it would be because many viewers may have been expecting a more detailed story behind Queen, the band’s rapid rise to fame, and why their music continues to enjoy such longevity. While this part of the film feels patchy, with bits and pieces time stamped by years and concerts around the world, the film is really about Mercury’s vision to write and produce music that was outrageous and outstanding, yet universally infectious. In the film, his lyrics and melodies come to him in epiphanies. It’s a nice touch in trying to understand the brilliance behind his outrageously flamboyant stage persona, while also nodding to the fact that Mercury was known to be a shy introvert when not performing.

As Mercury, Rami Malek nails every scene with commanding aplomb, even while struggling to cover his buck teeth with his upper lip. Like Queen, it’s a meteoric performance for Malek who gathered a large fan following on TV’s Mr. Robot. There are others too, Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as lead guitarist Brian May, and an unrecognizable Mike Myers as a record label executive who together add supporting aid to characters in the story. But even if the biopic doesn’t add up with which, who and what came first, all credit goes to Malek for capturing and almost reveling in Mercury’s dynamic and electric stage presence, yet equally childlike innocence. Ultimately, Bohemian Rhapsody is a celebration of Queen’s music, but with focus on Mercury as the band’s creator. If that means controversies and scandals are left out, then it also leaves Mercury’s brilliance and conflicts obscured in mystery. And that’s the best way to remember a legend with an incredibly diverse set of octaves.

“We will rock you”, they said. They do and you better believe it. By the time you realise the end credits are rolling up, you’ll find yourself hanging on the edge of your seat.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.