There are fewer things more obvious in cinema than a bombastic biopic, charting the life of one of the world’s most iconic showmen Freddie Mercury and rock band Queen. Having sold more than 300 million records and played to millions around the world over the decades, it seems on paper to be one of the easier tasks in Hollywood. Despite this, the production has gone through more chaos than one of the band’s infamous parties.
Envisaged back in 2008, the central role of Mercury has been passed around more than one leading man, from Sacha Baron Cohen to finally landing on Mr Robot star Rami Malek. Likewise, scripts and directors have come and gone, most recently Bryan Singer who was removed from the production following alleged ‘difficult relationships’ with the cast on-set.
To the dismay of some, rather than focus on the life and death of enigmatic Mercury, the film orbits around Queen’s greatest hour (or rather 20 minutes), 1985’s Live Aid concert. The story told around it charts a jukebox journey across some of the band’s greatest musical successes, including the film’s namesake.
Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury is undoubtedly one of the great cinema portrayals and is worthy of his much-heralded success. Whilst he doesn’t quite capture the look of Freddie’s early days in the 1970s, he exudes the raw energy and boundless charisma of his later era, whilst also managing to convey the more sober moments of loneliness in the life of this deeply private man. Moments maybe too few throughout the 2-hour 20-minute runtime.
Fans will obviously be encapsulated by the feel-good soundtrack, but the technical marvel of the main set-piece moment of Live Aid is spectacular to see recreated. Every look, note and gesture has been meticulously covered, on a marvelously staged replica of Wembley Stadium.
In the end, executive producers Brian May and Roger Taylor must be delighted at having secured the legacy of the band with a series of award successes, culminating in four Oscar wins, including ‘Best Actor’ for Rami Malek. Whether this was the Freddie Mercury film the critics wanted is unclear. However, the fans and audience have clearly stomped their feet to the famous ‘We Will Rock You’ beat.