Freddie Mercury arrives on the big screen with his long-awaited biopic – Bohemian Rhapsody starring Rami Malek of Mr. Robot fame in the starring role. Lucky enough to attend the premiere of the film, I went in expecting an alright film and came out with my heart beating hard against my chest.
The 2hr 15 min I spent inside the theatre had some of the most intense cinematic moments I’ve seen this year on film. The film opens in medias res with the band Queen’s most iconic Live-Aid performance of 1985 where Mercury arrives on stage in front of thousands. We are then taken back to the 1970s, where we are introduced to the Indian Parsi, Farrokh Balsara who meets the little-known band Smile. When the lead vocalist drops out, Farrokh takes over and provides the band with a new direction – catapulting them to success. Farrokh takes on the new stage name Freddie Mercury, thereby straining his already tumultuous relationship with his conservative father.
Mercury’s awkward attitude and radical approach to music are highlighted many times during the film along with his insecurities. At one point, his application to join Smile is immediately brushed off when a member mocks his teeth but Mercury surprises him with his singing range. The film goes on to chronicle the band’s subsequent success with hit songs such as the title Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, Another One bites the dust. For me however, the highlight was when Gwilym Lee’s character Brian May introduces the clap-clap-stomp rhythm to Freddie – a rhythm the entire world is now familiar with. Freddie asks him “What are the lyrics?” and we immediately cut to We Will Rock You, eliciting goosebumps from the entire audience.
Rami Malek slays as Freddie, his mannerisms, facial features and physique change through the years uncannily resembles Mercury. He perfectly captures the essence in an Oscar worthy raw and edgy performance, where you will forget that it’s Malek impersonating Freddie. The film’s supporting cast do a brilliant job infusing life into their characters. Produced by the surviving Queen members Brian May, Roger Taylor and manager Jim “Miami” Beach, the film avoids the more controversial sides of the band’s history with the biopic fit to provide more of an entertaining experience than a documentation of real history and the best part is that it entirely works! I agree that the film could have been a bit more outrageous and perhaps even Rated-R since Mercury himself declares at one point in the film that “the band’s name is Queen, outrageous just like me!” His struggle with embracing his sexuality is displayed towards the middle of the film during the US tour where Freddie discovers that he is gay, followed by nightclub sequences and the ultimate contraction of AIDs. But instead of pushing the sad plight of the title character, the movie utilizes this plot element and propels the story toward a much grander stage – the Live Aid performance that was hinted at the start of the film. The band’s breakup and subsequent makeup will take you on a journey of heartbreak, laughs and finally a hair-raising performance at the Wembley theatre in London.
The final 20-minute scene stands out as the most jaw-dropping epic musical performance that I ever seen on film. The scene itself immerses you and takes the audience back to 1985 as the band sings on stage amidst the thousands that witness one of the most amazing live performances of all time. In real life, Freddie put his heart and soul into every single one of his concerts, likewise Malek has poured everything he has into his portrayal of Mercury.
This is a film that deserves to be seen in a theatre, you forget everything else. The band and you are one and in sync. A foot-stomping celebration of Queen that you do not want to miss!
Courtesy of Akash SK