This new film brings us Queen from their beginning in 1970, through the song on which the film’s title is derived (which was mostly slammed by critics at the time), and up to and including their 1985 Live Aid concert. If you’re looking for a “warts-and-all” story about Freddie Mercury’s declining later years, this is not that film. Maybe it will come later.
Mr Mercury is played by Rami Malek (below-left, and in Buster’s Mal Heart), and while he looks okay in this, my tip for the great singer was Assaad Bouab (below-right), who played Redouane Buzoni, one of the baddies in French heist drama, Braquo Season 4. As you can see, there, he is the spitting image of the man!
To that end, Malek’s appearance reminded me more of Mick Jagger, so if they ever make a film about him…
The first time we see Freddie perform with Queen, he has problems with the microphone which reminded me of the first time I ever tried stand-up comedy and… I accidentally switched the mic off and didn’t realise at first, until it was pointed out to me and corrected – which at least gave me my first laugh!
Looking at the rest of Queen and the best one here is Gwilym Lee as Brian May, who sounds spot-on, while Ben Hardy is fine as Roger Taylor, and Jurassic Park‘s Joseph Mazzello is John Deacon, but have you ever heard him speak in real life? Me neither, so how accurate his voice is here, who knows. In fact, Mr Mazzello looks more like The Young Ones’ Nigel Planer!
The four band members of Queen all consider themselves a ‘family’, for kinmanship and other reasons you’ll discover.
For other cast members, there’s one scene with the late, great Kenny Everett in his Capital Radio days, the man being played with camp aplomb by… er… Dickie Beau (yes, ‘dickie bow’). And that’s real name!!! No, seriously, it’s… well, if he is known by any other name, then IMDB isn’t saying.
While there are pictures of Freddie and his family shown during the credits, I wouldn’t know most of the non-family characters if I fell over them, but it’s always pleasing to see Aidan Gillen and Tom Hollander.
The film does rather take a canter through some events, so we see the early experimental sound of switching the audio back and forth between left and right speakers, as well as banging a drum while it has pennies on top of it, as well as seeing Freddie play some early bars of Bohemian Rhapsody and declaring, “I think it has potential”(!)
Before all of that, we get the 20th Century Fox logo performed by Brian May!
There’s also the press intrusion on Freddie’s private life – when they’d rather talk about his health than the band’s new album; as well as the iconic pop video I Want To Break Free; and we see the lonely side of celebrity, when all the screaming stops and you’re on your own. As I said in my review for Whitney: Can I Be Me? – one moment you’re on stage belting out your biggest hit, and later that evening, you’re back home and doing the washing up.
Given that it’s a 12-certificate, if you’re wondering whether to take children to it – since you can – then they’ll hugely enjoy the music, and while there’s a little bit of mild language, as well as one f-word (always a guarantee for a PG-13 in the US), the one thing you do take away from this is that Freddie Mercury was one of the most polite people around, and a lot of children could learn from that, these days.
And some memorable quotes from the film which I’ll put behind a spoiler header if you don’t want to know any in advance:
There are a couple of concerns with the dialogue. In the late ’70s, would the titular song ever be referred to as “Bo-Rhap”? And in what ’80s parlance was the term, “Well, duh!” ?
Overall, while peppered with small gags here and there, Bohemian Rhapsody is a little uneven early on, but gets stronger from the mid-point onwards, and excels from there.
Their Live Aid concert – which lasted 20 minutes in real life, as it’s the time that was allocated to every band, no matter what their size – where they played Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall and We Are The Champions – is recreated in full, here, and really makes you feel like you’re right there, with a combination of some stage performance with a fully-CGI crowd as Freddie & co. face out onto the throng, along with an occasional mix of the band performing on a stage with about 50 extras in front of them (including the press) when they need some audience reaction shots, as well as near-close-ups….
…..or so I thought. On checking their set list on Wikipedia, they ended up with rather more than 20 minutes, as they ran from 6.41pm to 7.23pm. Yes, they plays Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga and Hammer to Fall, but before their finale, they also crammed Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, prior to We Are the Champions. Okay, so maybe 40 minutes of songs might’ve been a bit too much, but perhaps we’ll get more in a director’s cut?
Either way, it’s easily the most emotional scene you will see on the big screen this year, and did make me tear up a little when you realse the exceptional talent we lost.
As the credits begin, we get a full blast of Don’t Stop Me Now (with the band onscreen) and then a music-only and slightly-truncated version of The Show Must Go On. Sadly, we also got the lights on full blast – as often is the case because Vue’s Head Office are complete idiots – but for the second song, they dipped slightly… and then went back up again as the cleaners came in.
Yes, if you really want to kill the mood, just let the cleaners show their face, carrying big clear sacks of rubbish, looking at everyone with eyes that say “GET OUT!” Well, we’re listening to Freddie, and we’re not going until he’s finished, so why don’t you piss off for five minutes?
UPDATE: Now, about the director. It was some time after I saw this when I learned that Bryan Singer was given the boot. The precise reasons are unclear (he said he had a personal health matter, whereas he reportedly got on Rami Malek’s tits by turning up late on set and clashing with him), but Dexter Fletcher was brought in with two-thirds of the film already complete.
Mr Fletcher is also directing 2019’s Rocketman, so can he do for Elton John what he did for Freddie Mercury?
Available now is the CD soundtrack
Running time: 134 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Universal Pictures UK
Cinema: Vue Lowry, Salford Quays
Format: Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (ARRIRAW (6.5K) (3.4K), Dolby Vision)
Released: October 24th 2018
Director: Bryan Singer
Producers: Jim Beach, Graham King, Brian May, Peter Oberth, Bryan Singer, Roger Taylor, Robert De Niro
Screenplay: Anthony McCarten
Story: Anthony McCarten, Peter Morgan
Music: John Ottman
Freddie Mercury: Rami Malek
Mary Austin: Lucy Boynton
Brian May: Gwilym Lee
Roger Taylor: Ben Hardy
John Deacon: Joseph Mazzello
Ray Foster: Mike Myers
John Reid: Aidan Gillen
Paul Prenter: Allen Leech
Jim Beach: Tom Hollander
Cheryl: Jess Radomska
Jim Hutton: Aaron McCusker
David: Max Bennett
Bomi Bulsara – Freddie’s Father: Ace Bhatti
Jer Bulsara – Freddie’s Mother: Meneka Das
Kashmira Bulsara – Freddie’s Sister: Priya Blackburn
Shelley Stern: Michelle Duncan
Jenny (Ealing Art College Student): Charlotte Sharland
Kenny Everett: Dickie Beau
Bob Geldof: Dermot Murphy
NY Clubber / Former Lov er to Freddie: Ian Jareth Williamson
Tim Staffell: Jack Roth
Larry Mullen Jr.: Matthew Houston
Farrokh: Adam Rauf
Freddie’s Lover: Matthew Fredricks
Mack: Philip Andrew
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.