Bohemian Rhapsody triumphs in Rami Malek’s uncanny transformation into Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, complete with prominent (and distracting) overbite.
Channeling the spirit of the late singer, Malek struts, preens and pouts his way through the band’s greatest hits, owning the stage (and the movie) and reaching his apotheosis as older Freddie, he of the mirrored sunglasses, white singlet and moustache.
Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, ‘Freddie’ was a baggage handler at Heathrow before joining student band Smile and ultimately transforming the foursome into stadium rock behemoth Queen. His complicated relationship with wife Mary is a major focus, and while his homosexuality and eventual AIDS diagnosis is no secret, the wilder aspects of his life are kept in the closet. Bohemian Rhapsody plays it safe – this is a rock ‘n’ roll movie without the sex and drugs.
There’s a moment in Bohemian Rhapsody when Queen declare that they won’t be bound by formula. The film, on the other hand, rigidly adheres to the same set list as countless other band biopics. There are the clashes with record producers, disputes with each other, the touring, the breakup, the triumphant comeback, the conservative parents… all the boxes are ticked.
Instead of a warts-and-all account of Queen’s formative years, it’s more an authorised bullet point breakdown of the band and flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury’s rise to superstardom. (Guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and manager Jim ‘Miami’ Beach are onboard as executive producers, and no doubt went through the script with a black marker.)
But what the movie lacks in detailed insight into Mercury, it makes up for with a backstage look at how a simple bassline became Another One Bites the Dust, a rhythmic foot-stomping We Will Rock You, and the creation of the six-minute long eponymous hit that EMI exec Ray Foster dismisses as “quasi-operatic dirge composed of nonsense words.”
Where Bohemian Rhapsody will well and truly rock you – and possibly even move you – is in the sensational recreation of Queen’s legendary 1985 comeback at the Live Aid charity concert, before the seething masses packed into Wembley Stadium. You’ll leave the theatre on a high (and humming Radio Ga Ga), hoodwinked into thinking you’ve just seen a great movie about Queen instead of a rather superficial one about Freddie Mercury.
In cinemas: November 1, 2018
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee
Directed by: Bryan Singer