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Film Review: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) is a bio-pic that has been in the works for the past eight years about the life of Freddie Mercury and one of (if not, the most) legendary bands in history: Queen. Directed by Bryan Singer and produced by fellow Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May, this musical bio-pic stars Rami Malek as Mercury, with support from Lucy Boynton and Mike Myers.

There has been a lot of discussion following the release of this film, particularly from the critics about the accuracy of the story. It has become clear that the film takes creative liberty in the story-telling of Mercury’s life. It is also hard to have this film spoiled for you, considering that most people should be aware of the scandals and stories that were told about Mercury. Seeing the 52% Rotten Tomatoes score at the time I went to see this film made me nervous, as I was highly anticipating this film since I heard of Malek’s casting.
Just like another film based on the music of an influential band in the 70s, Mamma Mia!, this film is made for a cinema viewing. This is the most varied yet packed audience I have seen for a very long time. Young and old, men and women, alone or with a group of people. Everyone likes Queen at some point in their life and this film has the perfect demographic of being entertaining for everyone. They also manage to get in the LGBTQ+ and Middle East demographic without having to give up the stereotypical audience goer, which is shockingly still rare to this day.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) – source: 20th Century Fox
When we look back on the project for the past eight years, it is weird to see that Sacha Baron Cohen was meant to play Mercury. Whilst his version would have been raunchier and more scandalous, Malek does a fantastic job at finding a balance between Mercury’s professional and personal life. Whilst the script may be clunky at times in its presentation, Malek draws you into the film and alongside the other Queen members, convinces you that you are truly watching Queen at work in their prime.
The casting director did a stellar job casting the other band members particularly Gwilym Lee as Brian May. They acted exactly like their characters, and the looks were all spot on. I also love the casting of Lucy Boynton as Mercury’s long time friend Mary Austin, as I have been a fan of Boynton from her work in Sing Street. She does great in this role, and shows that the relationship between Austin and Mercury was not a solid black and white situation, but had their ups and downs and were essentially like most couples, just with some differences and complications between them. We see why Mercury liked Austin so much, and whilst people may not like how much time his straight relationship took in this film, it really seemed to be a big part of his life.
There is obviously not going to be a doubt that the soundtrack of this film is superb. All of the songs are the most iconic songs and live moments of Queen, from their start right up to the infamous Live Aid performance. It is not clear what parts were Queen’s audio and if Malek did contribute vocals for his performance, but it is so convincing that he is singing either way that it doesn’t matter. It is actually smart of them to use Mercury’s voice, as if they tried to imitate Mercury’s voice there could have been backlash or a less authentic performance, coming across as a tribute act more than the band itself.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) – source: 20th Century Fox
What sells this film as a great Queen film comes down to the Live Aid recreation at the end of the film. It takes up the last 20 years, and it is done brilliantly. You would not believe that this scene was shot on day one of the film production, as you feel that Malek has truly become Freddie Mercury by this point. It is almost a perfect replication shot by shot, and you get the sense of how big this show truly is. I was not the biggest fan of them showing a bit of the Live Aid at the beginning of the film, but by the time we get back to it that doesn’t matter. It felt like a weird place to start off the film, but it is a perfect ending where Queen reach their pinnacle moment.
It is clear that this film tries its best to get all of Freddie’s life in the film whilst keeping it a 12A rating. They also try to tell the entire story of Queen up to the year 1985, a vital point for Queen as a band, yet that means the order of events do get mixed up. One major development in Mercury’s life is presented as happening years before it actually does, almost creating a false narrative as to why the Live Aid performance is more important than it seems. It is clear why they chose this, and it does create a great sense of drama and closure for a Hollywood movie. It is hard to criticise the actual film for this choice, but it does hinder this from becoming a great bio-pic rather than a film based on true stories.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) – source: 20th Century Fox

There is a sense that this film leaves you wanting more, whether that is wanting more Queen or wanting to know more about Mercury. It is important that from this film that people look up the history of Mercury and Queen and reassemble the timeline correctly to create an accurate depiction of events. Normally this is the role of a film, particularly a bio-pic, to give the audience the correct timeline. However, the way this story is told works better for a film narrative. There is a set end-point, and if told accurately key elements of Mercury’s life would end up making the cutting board.
If you like Queen’s music, you will like this film. Yes, it shows Mercury’s personal life, but the focus is on the music just as it should be. Queen’s music sweeps across generations and no matter how old or young you are, there is elements of the film for everyone to enjoy. The concert moments are spread throughout and help show the power that Queen had in the music industry. This is a fun and entertaining film and whilst I would not recommend it as an accurate bio-pic of Queen, I would recommend it as a great film to go and experience in cinemas.

Have you caught up with Bohemian Rhapsody yet? Are you bothered by the historical inaccuracies of the story, or did you enjoy the film regardless of this? 
Until next time, that was some film for thought.

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