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Bohemian Rhapsody

The rock group Queen probably don’t need any introduction. Famed for their hit songs of the 1970’s and 80’s, their influence is still felt. Much of their success was due to singer Freddie Mercury, whose energetic charisma carried the band to massive heights. Whilst Mercury is no longer with us, his legacy as well as the songs he performed endures. Several of their tracks have been used in multiple films, such as their soundtrack to the 1980 sci-fi classic ‘Flash Gordon’. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ charts their fortunes in the often topsy-turvy world of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

In the early 70’s, singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) forms the group Queen alongside his friends Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon (Joseph Mazello). With their contrasting musical styles ranging from rock, pop and hints of opera, the band initially find it difficult establishing their fanbase. Gradually with diverse tunes such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We are the Champions’ and ‘Radio Ga Ga’, their popularity is assured. With the highs come the lows as they face personal tragedy amidst the fleeting allure of fame and fortune.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is an often clichéd and formulaic movie biopic. Queen’s path to success is generally seen in a dot-to-dot manner with all the usual tropes ticked. Only occasionally does it truly fly which is mostly during the concert sequences and still electrifying songs. Making ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ watchable is Malek’s performance which captures Mercury’s charismatic showmanship and determination. His relationships with the group and others provide most of the interest even if the script plays things very safe.

The film feels sanitized with the revisionist history going into over-drive. Mercury’s life was fascinating and debauched with the story barely capturing the true person. This water treading extends to the rest of the characters who make little impact except for Mike Myers as a harried record executive. The songs and fantastic cinematography go a long way in conveying the power of Queen’s music with the scenes set in the 1985 Live Aid concert especially dynamic.

Like a covers band who don’t quite capture the genuine essence of its subject, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is only entertaining on a surface level. There isn’t much underneath with the screenplay apparently too scared to further explore a complex performer. As a ‘Reader’s Digest’ or ‘Wikipedia’ version of Queen/Freddie Mercury history it’s fine with the tunes still having an impression decades after their creation.

Rating out of 10: 6

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