Directed by: Bryan Singer
Story by: Anthony McCarten & Peter Morgan
Screenplay by: Anthony McCarten
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker
A review by Christoph Staffl
“Are you aware that no one actually likes opera?” – Ray
When I first saw pictures of Rami Malek in full costume and make-up, I wanted to see this movie in theaters. Preferably in an IMAX cinema, so I can feel every beat of the songs, hear every single word out of the actor’s mouth. Simple getting the best and most holistic experience. Somehow it meant a lot to me, to watch the history of one of the greatest bands in history unfold before my eyes. All this without having even seen a single teaser. Just one picture.
Why do I tell you this? Because up until last Thursday, I was not even a big Queen fan. Like Rami Malek himself, I knew the general beats of the band’s career and the tragic fate of their lead singer Freddie Mercury. But a fan? Not really. Born in 1989, I was more on the pop side of the spectrum, celebrating icons like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Cher. Those geniuses were and are my heroes I can always come back to. Such talents as Queen existed more in the background.
“Your life is going to be very difficult.” – Mary
Bohemian Rhapsody, as you might have guessed by now, tells the story of Queen. We witness everything from Freddie Mercury’s perspective and first meet him in 1970 as he listens to one of the band’s gigs. Back then, they were known (or not known) as Smile. After Smile finishes their gig, which takes place in a bar, their lead singer quits. The band’s about to end. Freddie Bulsara (he hadn’t changed his name yet) approaches them right there, after the gig, in the backyard of the bar, and hands them some songs he wrote. Of course, they are hesitant, but Freddie, realizing this could be his only chance, begins to sing. The rest is history.
The following 21 years of the band’s career are the content of this movie. We witness their creative process, are taken behind the scenes of some of their shows and watch a man’s struggle to accept himself as he is.
“We’re all legends.” – Freddie
I don’t remember where I read this, but Rami Malek said in an interview, being asked about Freddie Mercury’s status as a gay icon, something in the line of this man does not need any adjectives. Freddie Mercury just was. I was not sure what he meant by that. However, as I watched Rami Malek leaving his persona as a performer and actor behind, to become the icon himself truly, I think I understood what he meant. Though being a part of something bigger, Freddie Mercury always stood out. Be it the way he talked, walked, gestured, dressed or, yes, just was – a unique icon all around.
I can’t give Rami Malek enough credit for what he accomplished in Bohemian Rhapsody. Working every day with those prosthetic teeth and still be able to deliver every facial expression and body movement on point is a testament to his abilities. I didn’t see the actor performing, it felt more like a documentary about Queen.
Bohemian Rhapsody accomplished to drag me into its world from the first minute and didn‘t let go until the last beats of the last song faded away. One of the best parts surely are the concerts and live events the band did. I don’t know how they accomplished to fuse Rami Malek’s voice, the voice of another singer, and recordings of Freddie Mercury together. Somehow the creative team made the transitions smooth, and I did not hear any difference.
Speaking about live events: I loved how they showed the audiences of those shows as well. They are the reason Queen became such a phenomenon and were captured brilliantly. You are flying over thousands of people, cheering Queen on, singing, stomping, clapping, shouting. Taking in their energy and looking forward to what is coming in the next couple of minutes.
But Bohemian Rhapsody is not just a re-enactment of Queens biggest and best shows. It is a movie about the people that made everything possible. So let’s talk about the supporting cast. Beginning with the members of the band, from their managers to their lovers, liaisons, and ladies – everyone in this motion picture delivers excellent performances. During the over two hours of the movie not once did I think about what I was watching. I just enjoyed the ride, the experience, the emotions.
They are also the ones who make the intimate conversations Freddie Mercury had with various people in his life the best parts of this movie. Everyone involved made the personal moments hit just as hard as the big ones. This, combined with clever scene transitions, framing styles, as well as the musical queues and location choices, the various parts come together to form one epic event.
You could argue that in some movies the writers seem to forget about certain subplots. They establish them at the beginning, drop them for the second act, and pick them back up at the end. Thanks to the main theme of the movie, which I will talk about shortly, this is not the case with Bohemian Rhapsody. The subplots may be pushed in the background, but they are not forgotten, and certainly get their conclusions.
The central theme in Bohemian Rhapsody is family. Exploring every aspect of this word, we get to see what it means to go through thick and thin, being there for each other no matter what, and how far you can go, before being left alone.
Is this movie perfect? Subjectively yes. But I honestly don‘t know. Watching it for the first time it completely grabbed my attention, was entertaining as hell and I learned a lot about one of the biggest bands in the world. I know I can get overly excited about certain things, but I had such a stellar experience. One thing I know for sure is that I want to see it again. Actually, two things: Before, I wasn’t a Queen fan, now I listen to them non-stop.
The Verdict: Watch it!
“You have such an exotic look. I love your style.” – Mary Austin
After the last names slipped by on the big screen, I wished I could press the replay button and watch it all over again. You will witness the tragic parts, as well as the great and fun ones. They are part of the story that is Freddie Mercury, and that made Queen who they are. They could not have found a better person as Rami Malek to play the lead. He is magnificent. Unique. Just as the person he portrays.
If you have the chance to watch Bohemian Rhapsody in an IMAX cinema or something similar, do yourself a favor and invest those additional dollars. This movie deserves the best sound system a cinema has to offer.