STAGE PRESENCE: Rami Malek nails his performance as Freddie Mercury.

Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Musical drama-true story; Cert M, contains offensive language, sexual references and drug references; 2hrs 14mins
  • Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, Mike Myers and Aaron McCusker
  • Director: Bryan Singer

RAMI Malek gives such a fantastic performance as Eddie Mercury that it seems churlish to admit that I would have preferred Sasha Baron Cohen’s interpretation.

This biopic’s inception came more than a decade ago with Baron Cohen originally planning to play the role.

Due to disagreements with the surviving, more conservative, members of the band, that never eventuated. However, you just know that, with Baron Cohen in the role, this movie would have been as outrageously memorable and debauched as its subject would have liked.

While this reverential tribute to one of the world’s biggest-selling acts will please Queen fans, I found Bohemian Rhapsody just a bit tame, when you consider the outrageousness Mercury was known for.

It does give full credit to Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon as being equally important to Queen.

Malek’s every gesture and expression is spot on, and live performances have been recreated, including five songs performed at Live Aid in 1985.

However, it often felt as though I was simply watching an extremely good lip-sync performance of one of Queen’s real concerts.

Malek did sing some parts of the songs, however, and through the magic of digital sound technology, strands of Queen recordings have been seamlessly inserted, along with the voice of Mercury impersonator Marc Martel.

The film takes up the story of the band, starting from its formation at a college nightclub to the epic performance at Live Aid, six years before Mercury’s death.

The film doesn’t stick strictly to the time-line of real life, compressing many events to make fame seem to come overnight and with little effort.

Because the focus is on the band, rather than it’s most interesting member, we learn nothing of Mercury’s early life in Zanziba and India. It brushes lightly over his struggles to find his identity against his conservative Muslim upbringing and makes no mention of his earlier, failed bands.

Despite this Bohemian Rhapsody lives up to its namesake song by being sumptuously long.

It does this by focusing on the band’s musical performances, with the Live Aid concert being recreated in its entirety.

As with A Star is Born, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, the concert scenes, with crowds of thousands, are astonishingly real, giving viewers a taste of what it must feel like to perform in front of a crowd of that size.

Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello are terrific as May, Taylor and Deacon, respectively.

Look out for master of disguise Mike Myers as EMI executive Ray Foster.