"Bohemian Rhapsody" Review: Malek is Killer Queen

The music and performances shine in this biopic, though some details feel lacking.

By Solomon Smith, Political News Editor

Photo Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

As a history of the band, “Bohemian Rhapsody” comes up short, but it rocks as a biopic of one of the most fascinating personalities in modern rock.

First, know that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not about the band. There are some great scenes that talk about the making of some of Queen’s iconic songs, but they are merely additional ingredients in a mix that, according to the movie, used Freddy Mercury’s raw talent as the base.

Remi Malek was the perfect choice to play Mercury. He portrays him as a sexually ambiguous, shy and unsure man, but is also able to emit the command of the stage that Mercury had when performing.

Mercury was known for his trademark overbite. For many actors, prosthetics mimicking the features of a character can be distracting but Malek manages to use them to full effect. Watching him attempt to hide his teeth when talking or smiling add nuance to the character that many fans of the band will be familiar with.

Music is the only other star of this movie, and the music of Queen is used subtly and effectively throughout. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Music Director John Ottman uses snippets of music from their catalogue and unreleased recordings to echo in the background of scenes, accentuating and making small moments much more powerful. Malek also received a little help from singer Mark Martel, who adds vocals to the unreleased masters, and gives the live performances the sound needed to match Malek’s powerful performance. This is exactly what a movie goer is waiting to hear — clear, clean, crisp use of music from Queen.

The only real complaint here is that the movie never goes far enough. There is very little criticism of Mercury. The path of self-discovery of a man who starts out conflicted about his sexuality is missing, a lost opportunity to add depth to a movie that has everything but. Malek’s performance was excellent but often he seems to pace, waiting for conflicts that never come.

The film attempts to place most of the villainy elsewhere and misses the opportunity to explore the men that make Queen. Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon- played by Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello, respectively- are rarely given anything to do. Hints about flaws in the other members of Queen are dropped in one-line quips but never explored; brilliant insight from intelligent, interesting musicians become brief side notes, hollowing out the script.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a love letter to the music of Queen, one even an occasional fan of the band will enjoy. For those few not familiar with the music of Queen, uneven pacing and shallow writing cannot ruin a movie filled with Malek’s inspired performance.