Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman
Starring: (voices of) Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber
Certificate: PG
Run Time: 117 mins

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a surprisingly good film that has plenty of heart,  well-developed characters and manages to put a fresh spin on the famous Web-Slinger amidst the superhero fatigue. The marketing siginificantly diminshed my expectations as it looked to be a crowded, overstuffed film that struck a boisterous tone. The idea of having multiple versions of Spider-Man is an interesting one and it gives this film a chance to bring back many fan favourites and explore alternative characters that have been previously marginalised.

This film follows Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker (who features as well), a mixed race teenager who struggles to fit in at school and doesn’t meet the lofty expectations of his parents, specifically his policeman father who also doesn’t see Spider-Man as a benefit to the city. When Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider to become the eponymous superhero, he stumbles across Kingpin who is trying to experiment accessing parallel universes in an effort to bring back his deceased wife and son. This then, as one would expect, causes problems and different versions of Spider-Man are brought into Miles’ dimension. These include Peter Parker, Spider-Gwen and more obscure versions of the character such as Spider-Noir and Spider-Ham.  They all have to team up to defeat Kingpin so that they can return to their respective universes before they deteriorate.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse succeeds in playing with comic-book convention and it manages to not fall into certain pitfalls of the genre. Perhaps the most impressive is how it tells the origin stories of all the characters in the film without spending too much time and doing it in a comedic manner. This is a fun and fresh take on this and allows the film to get to its main narrative thread quicker. The voice cast are all excellent and all seem to be having fun. Although not quite as funny as it could have been, there’s plenty of laughs to be had in this film as well through physical gags to obscure comic-book references for the fans. There’s also a very touching Stan Lee cameo made all the more heartfelt since his passing.

With all that said, I don’t think it’s quite as good as it has been made out to be. It does succumb somewhat to typical third-act antics with an overlong and not particularly exciting final battle. Despite some hints at a more fleshed out character, the villain Kingpin is underused and quite one-dimensional. Both problems this film has are also the downfall of Aquaman as well, currently playing in cinemas too.

Overall, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an energetic and entertaining film that is heartfelt and provides a refreshing spin on the popular superhero. It packs some good twists in its storyline and should be a delight for comic-book fans through some more obscure and metatextual references. But it’s not quite as good as it could have been as it falls into typical problems of a lacklustre villain and a slightly tiring third act.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

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Aquaman (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: James Wan
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman 
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 143 mins

The DCEU has had a very rocky ride to date and for every glimmer of success that some of the films have hinted at, they then take a regressive step backward. Aquaman is the first film post-Justice League, the long-awaited team up which ended up being a disappointment that was pulled in many different directions by its authors. Having James Wan in the director’s chair is a good sign, an individual who has gone from strength to strength in his career and has been a key figure in revitalising the horror genre. As a character, Aquaman has never really appealed to film audiences through his ability to communicate to fish which isn’t exactly a superpower. Certainly, his character introduction in Justice League left a lot to be desired.

Aquaman just about works as a film and it is a largely entertaining underwater extravaganza that is consistently visually stunning. I was frequently in awe witnessing the underwater world Wan created and there are many shots in the film that are wonderfully crafted. Even when the characters on land, the visuals are excellent and a chase scene in a Sicilian setting is choreographed particularly well. As for Aquaman himself, James Wan certainly embraces the more corny aspects of the character but manages to inject a lot of heart and development to make him more likeable which is a relief. This cheesy tone Wan goes for isn’t entirely successful and the film is stuffed with formulaic dialogue and plot points. It’s also overlong at a whopping 143 minutes and although not to as bad an extent as other films, it does succumb to a CGI-fest in its final act.

The cast all mostly coast along and embrace the silliness of it all. Jason Momoa has clearly settled into the role enough to successfully carry his own film and won me over early on. Momoa has good chemsitry with Amber Heard and it’s good to see stalwarts like Willem Dafoe having fun. Patrick Wilson’s villain is a little disappointing due to a general lack of character development, even if the actor gives it his best effort. That said, Yahya Abdul Mateen II’s portrayal of the secondary villain, Black Manta is excellent and there is certainly potential in a future film for him to be a bigger bright spot.

Rupert Gregson-William’s score is worthy of mention and he crafts some memorable themes for the character. It’s good to see that he has experimented a lot more compared to his score for Wonder Woman which was unfortunately not memorable.

Overall, Aquaman is a serviceable entry in the DCEU that succeeds more on the strength of its visual effects. Its function as a film is mixed in its shabby construction and corny tone. The general likening of this film to Phase 1 Marvel films is an astute comparison – that it’s entertaining but doesn’t really have much depth. Regardless, it’s a step in the right direction for the DCEU and one would hope this success can continue.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Roma (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Entonio Guerrero
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 135 mins

One would have thought after having directed Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón would tackle another behemoth of a project. Unconventionally, Cuarón has chosen to make this black-and-white Mexican drama that draws many personal parallels to his upbringing in Mexico City in the 1970s. Roma‘s story follows Yalitza Aparicio’s maid who works for a well-off family who cooks and cleans and is someone who the children regard as family. Yet, Mexico City is presented as a turbulent setting in this period with student protests and police violence part of the everyday norm.

Viewers may well get frustrated with this film as it takes a while for the story to get going but Roma succeeds more based on the feelings of intimacy it provokes and the relationships between all of the well-developed characters. Especially once the film reaches a climactic event about two thirds of the way through, it is a masterfully haunting, meditative piece and deeply emotional. As to be expected, Roma is consistently visually arresting. Cuarón’s first time as cinematographer is an unqualified success who uses deep depths of field within each frame which give the film a personal, dream-like quality. The performances by the cast all round are excellent with Aparicio brilliant in the leading role as the reserved yet maternal maid who Cuarón digs deeper into her psyche as the film progresses. Equally impressive in her performance is Marina de Tavira as the mother of the family, a character who goes through her own upsets, but has a true respect for her family and the maids.

Whilst it took a while for Roma to work its spell on me, when it did, I was utterly transfixed and resonated emotionally wih the film. I suspect on a second viewing, it’s a film that I could like even more when it begins to reveal its deeper meanings. It fully deserves all the Awards attention it is recieving and the film works both on a visual and narative level.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Bird Box (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Susanne Bier
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Danielle Macdonald, Lil Rey Howery, Jacki Weaver, Rosa Salazar, Colson Baker, B.D. Wong, Tom Hollander, Sarah Paulson
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 124 mins

Positioned as a cross between A Quiet Place and The Happening, director Susanne Bier’s post-apocalyptic thriller Bird Box lacks originality but is very entertaining. Essentially A Quiet Place with sight substituted for sound, this film follows Sandra Bullock’s Mallory, an expectant mother who manages to make it to safety when people start commiting mass suicide after being infected by an unknown entity. This story is told in flashback to Mallory escorting two children onto a boat down a river to get to safety wearing blindfolds in the present and we learn how she got to this point.

The best thing going for Bird Box is its convincing performances by its strong cast. John Malkovich is the standout as a pessimistic, boozy homeowner who harbours some of the survivors whilst they figure out what to do next. Malkovich could play this role in his sleep and he is given many of the script’s best lines. Both Trevante Rhodes and Lil Rey Howery are also charismatic in supporting roles.

Technically, this film is very proficient and handsomely shot by Salvatore Totino. There are some good action sequences too and a section where some of the characters risk their lives to get groceries from the supermarket is particularly nail-biting. This tension is heightened by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ subtly effective score.

Despite the film being entertaining, I’m unsure as to whether the decision to tell the story in a fragemented timeline is a good one. Some of the action sequences do feel a little stunted as we flick back-and-forth through the two different time periods. The fate of the characters is also obvious as we know what will eventually happen, which results in the film never being able to live up to its suspense potential. What perhaps would have been better would be to keep the first scene of Mallory’s river escapade and then tell the film in chronological order to come back to this moment, which still would have sustained a mystery element.

Bird Box is a solid film for Netflix and it’s a shame that the spectacle of this film can’t be beheld on the big screen for its memorable imagery. Regardless, despite being rather unoriginal, Bird Box partly makes up for in execution and entertainment but it is frustrating that the film cannot live up to its high-concept potential.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Andy Serkis
Starring: Rohan Chand, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris, Andy Serkis, Matthew Rhys, Frieda Pinto
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 104 mins

It seems a minor miracle that Andy Serkis’ long gestating alternative take on The Jungle Book has actually made it out for public viewing. First, the film recieved numerous delays and then Warner Bros got cold feet, thinking they had a disaster on their hands and the film was then unceremoniously acquired by Netflix. Part of the reason for this trepidation was undoubtedly the widescale success of Jon Favreau’s 2015 Disney film which recieved unanimous praise.  Serkis’ film could afford not to be anything other than stellar otherwise it would be unfavourably compared to Favreau’s take. Serkis takes a different look at these characters audiences have come to cherish by sticking more closely to Rudyard Kipling’s original material, offering a much darker and grittier take compared to Disney.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is an ambitious film that is consistently entertaining and is very different to other interpretations that have come before it. The darker tone Serkis strikes suits the material well and results in a film that is more adult and this makes the stakes much more realistic for the character we have come to love. This is certainly not a film for younger audiences. Serkis again proves to be a master of motion capture and this film represents further evidence of his talents, that extends to the rest of the cast as well. The wild animals of the jungle look like their acting counterparts and this gives them much greater empathy.

The performances are great with both Andy Serkis as Baloo and Christian Bale as Bagheera the standouts, who have more of a wilder streak than Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley in Favreau’s version and both share a good chemistry. Matthew Rhys is also well cast as a human hunter in the native village, who is just as much a villain as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Shere Khan. Rohan Chand is solidly cast as the titular character but lacks the likeability of Neel Sethi’s performance in the 2016 film. Benedict Cumberbatch is also suitably nasty as Shere Khan in the limited screentime he has and it’s a shame that he isn’t all that developed.

The main problem with Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is it doesn’t try to strike a dark enough tone. Having a 12A rating means it still appeals to slightly older children but cannot quite push the boundary in merciless violence to really deliver the additional bite the film needs. It also lacks the energetic pace of Favreau’s film whose film flows much better but this film is never boring.

Visually, the film also looks unfinished. Serkis’ intentions are admirable and the visual ideas posed here are good but it doesn’t look like he’s been given the budget to fully realise his film which means the film doesn’t look as refined as Favreau’s photorealist vision. This means that Serkis’ film has too have a good story to overcome the unfinished visuals which it has, which is the main success of this film. Serkis knows that character work is most important.

Overall, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is an ambitious retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s classic material and whilst it is ultimately a success, it is likely to be underappreciated due to releasing so quickly after the 2015 Disney film. It’s also a real shame that Warner Bros seemed to have such little confidence in this work and had Serkis been allowed to refine the visuals, this could have been a very good film. Instead, this film has been dumped on Netflix and unfortunately, one can only imagine how much better this film could have been had it of recieved a proper post-production and distribution.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

The Old Man And The Gun (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: David Lowery
Starring: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits, Sissy Spacek
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 93 mins

If The Old Man And The Gun is indeed Robert Redford’s swansong, it will be a very good note to go out on. This is an entertaining heist film based on a true story that poses some interesting questions yet deconstructs the generic constructs of the hist film with Redford’s portrayal of an older-aged bank robber with manners, Forrest Tucker, who is oddly charming, feel-good and unthreatening. After escaping prison for the umpteenth time, Tucker conducts an unprecedented amount of heists with an equally older-aged crew whilst Casey Affleck’s rookie family-man detective is hot on his tail. However, he also meets a new companion, Sissy Spacek’s peaceful horse rancher.

David Lowery’s film is a mature and oddly elegiac study into the psyche of the criminal, as he interrogates existential themes of a man who cannot not commit criminal acts as it makes him tick. Redford’s robber doesn’t know a life other than the one he has lived and despite finding a love interest, cannot settle. Lowery’s film is also consistently comedic, with many laughs to be had despite this being a serious subject.

The performances are uniformly excellent with Robert Redford being the standout, with his seductive but low-key and charming performance. Redford has some strong support from Sissy Spacek and their relationship is maturely portrayed on-screen. Danny Glover and Tom Waits are also excellent as members of Redford’s gang, with Waits getting a satisfying speech mid-way through the film.

Visually, The Old Man And The Gun looks sharp, with some great cinematography from Joe Anderson, who constructs some memorable shots. David Lowery’s regular composer Daniel Hart’s score is also fitting with the film, using jazz to create a soothing mood.

Overall, The Old Man And The Gun is a fine note for Redford to go out on (should this be his last role which he has alluded to) and for the most part, is an entertaining and original heist film. The amiable tone it sustains throughout is impressive and it makes for a satisfying tonic to the more gritty, thrilling aspects of the conventional heist film, yet revels in nostalgia to older 70’s heist films, mirroring the younger Robert Redford’s then-burgeoning career. I haven’t always been a fan of Lowery’s filmography but I really liked The Old Man And The Gun and it’s a film that has the potential to further develop on rewatches.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Suspiria (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Sylvie Testud, Jessica Harper, Chloë Grace Moretz 
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 152 mins

After heightening his career with the Academy Award nominated Call Me By Your Name, it seems a strange choice for director Luca Guadagnino to follow it up with a remake of an Italian giallo horror film. However, Guadagnino has proven multiple times that he doesn’t stick to convention and here he chooses to reinvent Dario Argento’s cult classic as a more radical and feminised affair. This remake relocates the narrative to an Autumnal 1977 Berlin and the political violent uprising of the Baader-Meinhof faction. Dakota Johnson plays the film’s protagonist who gains a place at the Markos dance academy, where strange things happen almost instantaneously, as it is revealed early on that the academy is ruled by a coven of witches.

Suspiria is an ambitious remake that manages to justify its existence by diverting heavily from the original. It features some memorable horror imagery, beautifully lensed by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom and revels in its grandeur that it takes its time in setting up, over the course of six chapters and an epilogue. The feminist-charged performances in this film are great, with the standout undoubtedly Tilda Swinton, who has three roles in the film and excels in all of them. Dakota Johnson is equally excellent in a role that has more development than one initially expects.

That said, Suspiria faulters in these ambitious in that it often feels very heavy, almost like a PhD thesis and this self-seriousness is undone by some of the more silly aspects of the Argento-influenced horror, which the film erratically veers between. Argento’s film is laughable in places and this is translated over to this remake as well. Crucially, for a film that is meant to be a horror film, it isn’t scary and because of the laughable nature of the subject material, it’s merely mildly unsettling in parts. The pacing is also langorous and there are stretches where the film lacks energy. Suspiria also represents Radiohead lead Thom Yorke’s first foray into film scoring. His score is excellent on its own, a mix of instrumental orchestral pieces and songs but it doesn’t always fit in with the film.

In summary, Suspiria is a mixed bag that succeeds more than it faulters. It’s a film that has the potential to improve on future rewatches. Regardless, I’m glad it exists and Guadagnino makes a strong case in what it means to remake a film. I think this is probably a better film than the original, which I have more problems with than this. Whilst an interesting experiment and Guadagnino has some great ideas, Suspiria isn’t quite the knockout it looked and deserved to have been.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Carmen Ejogo, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Jude Law, Johnny Depp 
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 134 mins

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the hotly anticipated sequel to the 2016 spin-off to the Harry Potter series, that now looks set on becoming a five-feature franchise. After the first film established a strong set of new characters in a new environment and the titular Grindelwald teased, a second film always has more scope in that it can have more fun with the material as it doesn’t need to rely on introducing new concepts. This film follows Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander once again, who has been tasked by Jude Law’s younger portrayal of Dumbledore to locate Credence, an Obscurus who Grindelwald took a keen interest to in the first film. Johnny Depp’s dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald, is simultaneously is growing stronger and recruiting new followers whilst also trying to locate Credence for his personal gain. Director David Yates again returns for this film after helming the first film and the last four Harry Potter films, as do much of the cast and crew.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a crushing disappointment and is the worst film in the Wizarding World thus far, by quite a sizeable distance. Whilst Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them did wonders in character development and a gripping storyline, this film fails to deliver on these promises hinted in the first film and makes for a particularly frustrating experience. The chief problems of the film are J.K. Rowling’s bewildering retconning of narrative events and characters and too much focus on setting up future installments which results in a sore lack of energy through stretches of the film. Considering the talent involved, the result is very surprising and this is the first film that David Yates has directed where he seems to be on autopilot throughout. Yates is such a talented director who doesn’t always recieve fair credit but even the visuals of the film lack that arresting quality of his previous filmography and at times, are a little ugly.

This is a film that strangely seems to primarily, be concerned with family trees and relations. As many of the characters that are important to the central plotline are new to the franchise, as an audience, there isn’t much to latch on to in terms of character emotion. I don’t mean this lightly when I say that the third act of the film felt like a Big Brother sketch. Characters also resort to blatant and lengthy exposition multiple times in the film.

Without going into spoilers, for die-hard Harry Potter fans, this film makes some strange decisions narratively. Whilst it’s always good to throw in some twists or take an unexpected diversion to what the audience are expecting, Rowling threatens to undermine the rich world she has created by retconning the main timeline of the series and trying to find ways to milk more plot points out of events. The ending to this film, which is a big reveal, I found to be very disappointing and out of character. Characters who have previously featured in either the first film or the Harry Potter series are treated rather disrespectfully by Rowling and make for jarring character arcs in the film.

There are some redeeming qualities to this film and I have overall graded it a ‘Good’. Firstly, Redmayne’s Newt remains a likeable and oddball lead, even if his character felt seemingly insignificant to the wider issues at hand. Jude Law’s Dumbledore is fantastic, who retains Michael Gambon’s twinkly personality and Irish lilt. Zoe Kravitz is also very convincing, even if her character is rather ill-treated on the page. Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald also fares well and Depp does the best what he can do with the material given and there are some interesting stabs at development that interrogate the wider politics of this world.

Overall, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a step-down in quality from the previous film and is disappointing in most respects. Rowling’s storyline has dug itself into a deep hole that at the moment, looks like will be difficult to dig itself out of. Serious changes will be needed in the next installment if this franchise has any chance of rivalling Harry Potter, or it threatens further undoing of this once promising series. That said, the film does have some interesting moments and some characters recieve good development. It’s certainly not a ‘bad’ film, but it represents a moment in the franchise where some important creative decisions will need to be made going forward.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Overlord (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: Julius Avery
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Gianny Taufer, Pilou Asbæk, Bokeem Woodbine 
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 110 mins

Overlord is an effective and highly entertaining genre hybrid that is a total blast from start to finish. The premise is quite simple – set in the run-up to D-Day, we follow a group of American soldiers who have been tasked to destroy a German radio tower in an old church. However, this task is made rather difficult when their plane is shot down, in spectacular fashion, and they need to evade the Nazi’s whilst completing their mission.

This is only director Julius Avery’s second feature but he clearly has the skills of a more seasoned director in how well this film is constructed. With the support of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot company producing, many thought this film would be another Cloverfield sequel, but it’s certainly not and it’s all the better for it in how standalone it is. There are multiple sequences here that are outstanding – the first scene in the film with the shooting down of the plane is claustrophobic and harrowing, starting the film immediately on a high. An extended sequence in an attic is masterfully paced too, as are some action sequences in the back-end of the film, but to reveal more would be to delve into spoiler territory. The violence in this film is particularly nasty at times, fully earning the film’s 18 certificate – this is not a film for the squeamish.

The performances by the relatively low-key cast are great, Jovan Adepo proving a solid lead as a young Private,after impressing in Fences a few years ago. Wyatt Russell as Corporal Ford, the leader of the group, is also excellent, a character who is solely concerned with achieving his mission rather than deviating from it once problems start to arise for the group. The two standouts of the cast are firstly Mathilde Ollivier as a French civilian who helps the group hide in her house with her brother and bed-ridden, ill Aunt. This is a breakout role for her and her performance is empathetic yet confident. Pilou Asbæk stars as a particular slimy and villianous Nazi SS Captain, who shines in many moments of the film in his nastiness, channelling Sergi López’s evil Captain in Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth.

Visually, Overlord looks great as well, with an emphasis on practical effects over CGI that make the film feel more authentic and gives it a B-movie quality. Jed Kurzel’s score has some memorable cues and suits the film well, even if it’s not his best work.

To summarise, Overlord winds up being one of the most exciting films of the year in its breakneck pacing from start to finish and other than perhaps a slightly corny, but luckily brief American ending. This is particularly surprising given my somewhat low expectations after the poor trailers. It’s also one of the rare genre hybrid films that manages to be fully successful on that promise, whereas lots of films stumble on one of the aspects. If you can handle the violence and gore, Overlord is bloody fun and is well worth a watch in the ever-crowded selection of films on offer.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Bohemian Rhapsody (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, Mike Myers
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 134 mins

In what has been a tumultous journey to the big screen, it’s rather surreal that that the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, has finally made it to release. The film was originally greenlit in 2010 with Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury, the actor didn’t see eye to eye with both the crew and Brian May and Roger Taylor, two of the band members who have had an important input into the film. The project was in lingo due to problems cracking the script and finding a replacement for Cohen until Rami Malek was cast in 2016. Then, there were setbacks with Eddie The Eagle director Dexter Fletcher, dropping out. Bryan Singer replaced him and it is Singer that has the directing credit here, but he was fired after a combination of not getting on with Malek and not showing up and then Dexter Fletcher came back to finish the film.

Although these all represent bad omens for the film, Bohemian Rhapsody is a well-crafted biopic that I was emotionally invested in for much of its running time. Rami Malek’s performance as Mercury is sensational and he completely inhabits the role, through his appearance, speech and mannerisms, capturing the late rock icon to a tee. The performances across the board are uniformly strong and Mike Myers is particularly good in a small role as a slimy EMI executive. Visually, the film looks good, for the most part Bryan Singer-regular, Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is sound and the hair/make up and costuming are convincing, with the exception of Malek’s fake buckteeth at the beginning of the film which are a bit jarring. The film is sensible in its scope in terms of the events it goes through in the space of the 134 minute running time and achieves all the major beats in the band’s history, ending in Queen’s Live Aid performance and Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis. As a Queen fan, I’d have been more than happy to watch more if the film was longer and went into further detail but one must realise this film has to appeal on all levels.

Considering that the film has multiple directors in its production, the film feels like one vision and it’s a rather seamless experience, unlike films such as Justice League, which feel like a frankenstein product where distinct visions pull the film in different directions. That said, this film does feel more like a Dexter Fletcher creation than a Bryan Singer one, particularly in its humour and sharp script, which is a relief as Singer seemed like a strange choice when one considers his filmography.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a rather sanitised affair though. Considering this is a film about a band that took risks, the film could have interrogated some of the events and the band members a little more perceptively. Other than Mercury, the rest of the band are portrayed pretty much as perfect individuals, which is not surprising that May and Taylor had a big influence and whilst Gwyilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joe Mazzello are all very good in the roles, they don’t have all that much to do. This is much more a Freddie Mercury study, but even then the film doesn’t delve too deeply into his life, only offering subtle hints at his sexuality and his personal life. I think this decision has been made more out of respect for him and to preserve his legacy, but instead perhaps there could have been a greater emphasis on the band dynamic and this would have enabled all of the band members greater development. Obviously, it’s a tricky juggling act trying to service all four band members and the film does a good enough job in the time frame, choosing not to get under the surface too much.

Unlike many reviews, I found the major mis-step with the film to be the ending Live Aid concert, which goes on for a good 15/20 minutes. Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography in this sequence is rather too flashy for its own good, with too many aerial shots and it looks too digitised and the whole sequence almost borders on being a bit naff and karaoke-like. As good as Malek and the cast are as Queen, they’re not the real thing when it comes to this sequence. It also felt more like a concious effort to get any remaining important Queen songs that hadn’t yet featured in the film into it.

Flaws aside, I was surprised by how emotionally invested I ended up being in Bohemian Rhapsody and it does overall, more than manage to capture the overarching essence of the band and succeeds in how they interact, even if the film does end up playing things safe. It is a respectful account of the band and if you’re not already a fan of them, will more than likely provide some inspiration to discover or re-discover what is one of the best rock bands in living memory. Rami Malek, in particular, is jaw-droppingly good as Mercury and I hope he gets some recognition for his performance in the upcoming Awards season. Bohemian Rhapsody is certainly well worth watching and should appeal to both the avid Queen fan or a newcomer as it works very well as a film in its own right.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)