★★★ OUT 24 Oc­to­ber CERT 12A / 134 mins

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - OLLY richards

The movie that should have been called ‘Mer­cury Ris­ing’. Or ‘Flash Drive’.

di­rec­tor Bryan Singer cast Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Lucy Boyn­ton

plot Be­fore they met Fred­die Mer­cury (Malek), Brian May (Lee) and Roger Tay­lor (Hardy) had a band no­body cared about. With Mer­cury they be­came one of the big­gest bands in his­tory. As Queen grows ever larger, Mer­cury be­comes its star, but fame is not al­ways as fun as he’d hoped. For all its be­hind-the-scenes drama and scan­dal, with orig­i­nal di­rec­tor Bryan singer re­moved from the pro­duc­tion (although still cred­ited) and re­placed by Dex­ter Fletcher very

far into film­ing, Bohemian Rhapsody

is a safe, com­pe­tent, de­cid­edly non­scan­dalous biopic. it treats the life of Fred­die Mer­cury with cau­tious af­fec­tion, happy to play within the rules when de­pict­ing a man who did any­thing but.

this is the story of Queen more than it is of its front­man. it be­gins in 1970 with Fred­die (rami Malek), a flam­boy­ant youth with a mouth full of too many teeth and too many notes, meet­ing smile, a beige rock band that would be­come Queen through the power of Mer­cury’s charisma. it ends with Queen’s per­for­mance at live aid in 1985. the Fred­die Mer­cury story would carry on for an­other six, very im­por­tant years, but Bohemian Rhapsody

is con­tent to leave those to a brief, writ­ten pre-cred­its sum­mary.

the in­her­ent prob­lem there is that while the story of Fred­die Mer­cury is fas­ci­nat­ing and deeply mov­ing, Queen’s road to glory is rel­a­tively free of bump. the two tales do not de­mand equal bal­ance. anthony Mccarten’s script strug­gles to in­ject much drama into Queen’s rise, which pro­gresses smoothly from stu­dent gigs to sold-out sta­di­ums in just a few years. it’s a cheer­ful trip through the hits, yet dra­mat­i­cally not very rich.

Mer­cury’s story makes much bet­ter view­ing, even if the script would pre­fer to al­lude to a life pas­sion­ately lived than show it. He gets al­most all the good lines and of­fers an ex­cess of ma­te­rial as a sub­ject. there are some poor, strange choices when de­cid­ing where to fo­cus, not least com­mit­ting so much time to his mar­riage to Mary austin (lucy Boyn­ton) and vir­tu­ally none to any happy gay re­la­tion­ship, ro­man­tic or oth­er­wise. Mer­cury’s sex life and HIV di­ag­no­sis are dealt with briefly, watched in quiet mon­tage, telling au­di­ences no more than they al­ready know. You can sense the con­cerned in­volve­ment of the sur­viv­ing mem­bers of Queen in the film’s po­lite­ness. it of­ten has the gen­tle in­nu­endo of an obit­u­ary rather than the in­quis­i­tive­ness of a bi­og­ra­phy.

How­ever, the film has a se­cret weapon, fir­ing off all over the place to try and blast the movie out of its gen­til­ity: rami Malek. as Mer­cury he is spec­tac­u­lar. a strut­ting, flam­boy­ant pea­cock among pi­geons on stage; a party wait­ing to hap­pen and too scared to leave it. there are other lights in the cast — Ben Hardy is a lot of fun as roger tay­lor — but Malek out­shines them all, giv­ing the ma­te­rial a wal­lop it needs. in the fi­nal se­quence, which recre­ates live aid with a vis­ual ex­cite­ment lack­ing else­where, Malek wrings ev­ery sec­ond he has left, per­form­ing — very af­fect­ingly — like it might be Fred­die’s last time, and it’s very af­fect­ing. if the script hits a lot of bum notes, Malek is al­ways per­fectly in key.

Ver­dict Like Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody is three parts good but not ter­ri­bly ex­cit­ing, and one part ab­so­lute joy­ful, fab­u­lous en­ter­tain­ment that makes you for­get ev­ery­thing else around it.

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