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Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 2/12/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/6/2019
Over the last few years, we’ve spoken a lot about biopics, especially around Oscar season. Typically, these movies fall into two categories, where you’ve either heard of the subject or have not heard of the subject, and, as discussed, if the films are well-made, one can often learn a great deal from them. However, it’s quite rare for there to be a film in this sub-genre where I already know something about the individual being profiled (I guess I’m just more familiar with obscure people). This is part of the reason why I approached Bohemian Rhapsody with a certain level of excitement. Having been somewhat of a fan of Queen during the height of their popularity, I wanted to see how true the film came across.
It’s 1970 and Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) works as a baggage handler at a London airport. In his free time, he enjoys going to the club to hear music and especially enjoys a band called Smile. When Smile loses their singer, Farrokh, who now calls himself Freddie Mercury, presents himself to guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and volunteers for the job. They soon bring bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello) on-board and change their name to Queen. The band quickly garners attention, not only for their catchy songs, but for Freddie’s great voice and on-stage antics. Freddie finds himself drawn to a fan named Mary (Lucy Boynton) and they soon become inseparable. But, as the band tours the world and continues to grow in popularity, Freddie begins to question who he is. His self-destructive behaviors drive a wedge between himself and Mary, as well as the band. Can he find a way to let his love for music save him?
Biopics can often be difficult to review, as it’s hard to critique a true story. As long as the movie is competently made, the time period feels genuine, and the performances aren’t too wooden, movies in this sub-genre can receive a pass. We often have these reactions because we don’t have enough knowledge about the subject matter to judge otherwise. That was not the case with Bohemian Rhapsody. I’m familiar enough with Queen and the era to point out some issues with the movie. The film offers a history of the band, with a specific focus on Freddie Mercury. And while there was most likely too much story to tell in a two-hour film, some things were definitely left-out or overlooked. For example, I would have loved to have seen the meeting where the band was offered the soundtrack to Flash Gordon. Another omission comes with the topic of Mercury’s solo project. We see him go to Berlin to work on the album, but we’re never told if he completed it or how it was received. There are some issues with chronology, as we hear “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” some time before “The Game” was released. One of the biggest oversights refers to the release of the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single. We observe the meeting where label-head Ray Foster (Mike Myers), refusing to send the song to radio stations. We then see on-screen blurbs in which critics lambast the song. And then nothing. The movie could have taken two seconds and mentioned that the song was #1 in the UK for nine weeks.
Outside of that nitpicking, Bohemian Rhapsody is a solid film which does a good job of showing the ups and downs of being in a rock band. First of all, the casting is top-notch. Malek doesn’t necessarily look like Mercury (Sacha Baron Cohen, who’d once been mentioned for the role, is a closer physical match), but he certainly embodies the late singer, in both mannerisms and physicality. Kudos to whoever found Gwilym Lee, as he looks just like Brian May. And, of course, it’s great to see the kid from Jurassic Park getting work. As noted, the film easily maneuvers between the highs of rock stardom and the lows of a band in dissolution. The film pulls few punches when showing what an emotionally complicated person Mercury was. He both loves and hurts those around him, but he always remains committed to the music. Yes, some of the scenes seem contrived, such as the moment depicting the creation of “We Will Rock You”, but who are we to say that they aren’t accurate?
I’ve seen some mixed reviews for Bohemian Rhapsody and I think that it may have something to do with the ending. The film concludes with Queen’s performance at Live Aid in 1985, showcasing over 10 minutes of that show. While it’s understandable why the film would want to highlight this seminal moment, it also feels weird that we don’t have a more dramatic, character-focused finish. People could walk away dwelling on that ending and not recalling the dramatic and intriguing moments which came before. Still, it would be a mistake to disregard the great job that the film does portraying Mercury’s life and career. His enthusiasm was often infectious and the movie takes us beyond the usual sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll to show that a band truly can be a family.
Bohemian Rhapsody also never explains who made Mercury’s costumes on 4K UHD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent, as the picture is never soft and we can make out textures on objects. The depth works quite well, most notably during the finale. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 35 Mbps. The tack provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the music sounds very good, although the range of the music is somewhat limited. The bass is palpable and we can often hear individual instruments in the front and rear channels. During the concert scenes, the crowd noise fills the rear channels.
The Bohemian Rhapsody 4K UHD contains one extra feature, “The Complete Live Aid Performance” which re-creates the band’s full 22-minute set from the concert, of which we only see 13-minutes in the finished film. The remaining extra features are found on the Blu-ray Disc included in this set. “Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie” (16 minutes) offers an interview with the actor as he addresses how he approached the role. We also get a nice amount of on-set footage showing Malek learning how to movie like Mercury, and comments from Brian May and Roger Taylor, as well as the other cast members, who discuss Malek’s performance. “The Look and Sound of Queen” (22 minutes) looks at all four actors who play the band, including more comments from May and Taylor, as well as interviews with the cast. The actors talk about the challenger of playing real people, and we see the cast interacting with May and Taylor on-set. The piece also looks at the costumes. “Recreating Live Aid” (20 minutes) takes us on set to see how the famous concert was re-created, including the band’s performance and the creation of the set. We also see how a small crowd became thousands through effects. Finally, we have three TRAILERS for the film.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long