Coming through a troubled production involving a change in directors as well as a change in leading man, there was every possibility that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ would prove to be a disaster. The fact it isn’t is perhaps testament to Dexter Fletcher, who stepped in when Bryan Singer was removed from the project, and to Rami Malek, who delivers an outstanding performance in the central role of Freddie Mercury. Production challenges aside, I thought ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was a really enjoyable biopic that captured the essence of Mercury and Queen, even as it takes a conventional approach to its narrative.
The film begins when Mercury is still Farrokh Bulsara, an immigrant from Zanzibar who is working as a baggage handler at Heathrow, and it follows him through his first encounter with Brian May and Roger Taylor (both excellently cast) up until their triumphant show at Live Aid in 1985. Rami Malek is truly excellent in the central role (distracting teeth aside), and as Mercury grows more comfortable in his own skin, so too does Malek in the role and he absolutely nails a superb recreation of much of the Live Aid concert as the films ‘pièce de résistance’. The film has been criticised in some quarters for historical inaccuracies and for sanitising much of Mercury’s private life, and to an extent it’s warranted. The timeline is off (particularly the crude creative decision to bring Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis forward to slot in neatly before Live Aid) and the film doesn’t delve as deeply into his private life as perhaps it could, but I think it captures the essence of the man and his story and I don’t think it necessarily needed to go deeper.
‘Bohemian Rhapsidy’ isn’t as candid an insight into the songwriting process as something like ‘Love & Mercy’ (the Brian Wilson biopic), nor as deep a character study of a man’s life as ‘Control’ (the Ian Curtis biopic), but I felt it succeeded in crafting a rousing and entertaining film befitting of the legend of Mercury, if not quite getting under the skin of the man behind that persona, and I did really enjoy it.
Directed By: Bryan Singer (and Dexter Fletcher)
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Allen Leech, Aiden Gillen, Tom Hollander, Aaron McCusker and Mike Myers