It’s a shame that this biopic didn’t quite reach the heights that I wanted it to, to rightly honour this legendary music group. However it does offer lots of enjoyable musical performances, the standout being the recreation of Queen’s 1985 Live Aid performance in the third act. My main hope is that this film introduces Queen’s music to a new generation of people who may not be familiar with their work.
I’ve been a fan of Queen ever since I first discovered their Greatest Hits album in my mum’s CD collection. I was in awe of how transcendent their music felt. I hadn’t heard anything like it before and yet I found myself instantly connecting to its bizarre and edgy yet also slightly magical catalogue. I was especially drawn to Brian May’s extraordinary guitar solos and Freddie Mercury’s thrilling voice. From anthems such as “We Will Rock You” to their intensely theatrical six minute song, “Bohemian Rhapsody” – they were one of a kind.
Upon learning that Queen’s story would be told on the big screen, my initial reaction was apprehensive enthusiasm. Their lead singer, Freddie Mercury, was notoriously a private man who, at the age of 45, tragically died from bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS. On the one hand, I was intrigued to see how exactly the film would go behind the curtains and approach its portrayal of Queen’s lead singer. But on the other hand, biopics are inherently risky territory. Condensing the rich and complicated life of an icon into a two or so hour film comes with sacrifices, which of course may not always hold up to scrutiny.
The film has a strong opening and I was hooked for most of the first act. We are introduced to a young Freddie, known as Farrokh Bulsara, a baggage handler at Heathrow. It was endearing to see how the man who would go on to command arenas filled with thousands of people had a wobbly start, struggling to get the mike out of the stand during one of his first performances. The band had humble beginnings and played multiple gigs at small venues. But even during their early performances, Freddie couldn’t help but be eccentric and flounce about flamboyantly with a tambourine.
I wanted the film to draw me in closer, but as it progressed, I was left increasingly cold. It’s not uncommon to take artistic licence in order to tie a biopic together. But with this format, there has to be enough truth for the audience to buy into the reality and be swept along. However, I felt like it toyed too much with certain details which made me repeatedly question how much was just a dramatisation of events. As I couldn’t shake this feeling for the majority of the film, it definitely dampened my enjoyment of it.
But the film is partially rescued by Rami Malek’s captivating portrayal of Freddie Mercury. He fully embodies Freddie’s effervescent energy and charisma, particularly when the band recreates some of Queen’s live performances. The film’s casting overall was excellent and I was impressed by how they were able to find actors who bore such a striking resemblance to their respective band members.
The standout scene was the recreation of Queen’s Live Aid Performance in 1985. Few moments in concert history are as mesmerising as seeing huge crowds chanting in unison in response to Freddie’s vocal drills. It paid such close attention to detail and was a powerful note to end the film on.
So overall it wasn’t the knockout production I hoped it would be. However if it encourages more people to discover Queen’s music, then it can’t be doing that much harm.