In the 1970s, a young man by the name of Farrokh Bulsara (later renamed to Freddie Mercury) takes notice of an extremely talented band performing on stage. After the show, he approaches and applauds their show that night. They inform Mercury that the lead singer has just quit, and it is there were Mercury impresses the band with his singing talent and is immediately hired as lead singer of the band. This band will go on to be named Queen. The members include Mercury (Rami Malek), Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello), and follows them as they attempt to become one of the greatest bands of all time.
Ever since I was a young child (probably around five or six years old), I was familiar with the music of Queen, one of the most popular and beloved bands in the history of music. My parents are both enormous fans of older music, and when I was growing up as a kid, naturally my parents played these types of music around me. Even when I was five or six, I actually thought the music of Queen was amazing (at the time my favorite song of theirs was either “Bicycle Race” or “Another One Bites The Dust”.
So, when I heard that filmmaker Bryan Singer was on board to direct a big studio film all about the journey and formation of Queen, I was excited but also extremely skeptical. Sometimes, musical biopics are not all that good. I have seen quite a few of them, and it is extremely rare that I actually enjoy one. The reason behind my excitement for Bohemian Rhapsody however, was the casting choice of Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. As soon as that first image was released on the internet of him as Mercury, I showed the image to my parents, and we all three agreed that he looked the part one hundred percent. However, I was still going in to the theatre a bit nervous, because I was not too sure if the film would be all that good, as musical biopics are just not my type of film.
Firstly, Malek thankfully delivers the performance of his entire career with this film. Virtually every single scene that he is in, he steals the show and he has so much charisma and charm in this picture that it is infectious. I am familiar with Malek’s work in the television series Mr. Robot, and I have seen him in other roles in the past, but during the entire running time of Bohemian Rhapsody, there was never a single time where I saw the actor. He completely transformed into Mercury. I honestly hope that he gets nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the upcoming 91st Academy Awards.
Gwilym Lee also does a terrific job as Brian May, one of the members of the band. He delivers quite a few comedic moments in the film, as well as Ben Hardy, who portrays Roger Taylor. When leaving the theatre, there was a woman outside talking with her friends who had just seen the film with her, and she said “For the longest time, I actually thought that was Brian May,” which just goes to show you how well the casting decisions were for this film for everybody involved.
One of the strongest actors in the entire film, however, is Lucy Boynton as Mercury’s love interest Mary Austin. I have been a fan of Boynton’s ever since 2016’s Sing Street, another film about music. There is one scene in particular towards the end of the film between her and Malek that was acted so powerfully, and left me surprised. I honestly hope that in the future, Boynton gets more roles as she is one of the most under-appreciated actresses working today.
Bohemian Rhapsody can also be an exhilarating thrill-ride as the film progresses, particularly the scenes where Queen is up on stage singing in front of thousands of fans in various different venues.
Something the picture does as well, is showcase how some of the most iconic songs from Queen’s discography came to be written and performed, which can often create for some hilarious and sometimes emotional moments. It was genuinely so amazing to see the chemistry of all of these actors unfold in this film. It honestly felt like the actors have been friends their entire lives.
Additionally, I was always invested with the story of the band and Mercury himself. Many times throughout the film, we get to see a taste of Mercury’s home and personal life and it was remarkable to see some things transpire in this film. There was never a time while watching Bohemian Rhapsody where I was not behind the band and was not rooting for them. Even though I knew dozens of things about Queen before seeing the film, there were still a number of genuine surprises in store which fascinated me.
Something this film suffers from unfortunately, is the running time. Bohemian Rhapsody clocks in at one hundred and thirty four minutes, but does feel about thirty or forty minutes longer than that. There are a couple of scenes scattered throughout the film that do drag and feel quite slow. I saw this film with my mother, and afterwards she told me that she really loved the film, but said that it felt extremely long, and I have to agree. Some moments in the film did feel slow.
It also does sadly gloss over some pretty crucial and significant moments in the history of Queen and in the personal life of Mercury. One of the worst offences of this, is in the first twenty or so minutes in the film, where the band is practically already formed and they already have the band name picked out and everything. It would have been a lot better if they had taken their time and shown us the beginning of the band a whole lot more than they did. What is also unfortunate, is that there are numerous historical inaccuracies which was annoying at times.
Bohemian Rhapsody manages to have just enough thrill and energy with a charismatic performance from Malek to make up for some of its flaws.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language
Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Running Time: 134 minutes