You may think you know the music of Queen and its wildcard, boundaries-shattering lead singer, Freddie Mercury. The film "Bohemian Rhapsody" sets out to teach you even more, showing you what was behind the iconic hits and memorable performances.
By the time the two-plus hours have passed, you're left emotionally devastated, your heart swelling with a new appreciation for Mercury and his bandmates.
Bookended with Queen's seminal 1985 comeback Live Aid performance, "Bohemian Rhapsody" adds new perspective to Mercury's personal and professional tribulations and triumphs, as well as his creative process, lingering demons and shortcomings as an artist and a man.
The film is a dynamite-and-a-laser-beam biopic that takes a 360-degree look at Mercury as a flawed man whose talent and genius lifted him to stratospheric heights, making him feel so insulated that he could sometimes abuse and mistreat loved ones.
Rami Malek ("Mr. Robot") turns in the performance of his young career, channeling Mercury's flamboyance, charisma and showmanship. So energetic and raw is Malek in the role that his performance seems to emit from natural reactions rather than studied calculation.
Director Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects," "The X-Men") is equally inspired. Rarely bowing to cliches typical of films about artists, he and his writing team dug through mountains of archival writing, video and audio recordings to carve out the essence of the man and his band.
Some of the film's most treasured moments come in the way the band came up with certain iconic songs. Watching the bandmates clash, collaborate and build off of one another's creativity makes you feel as though you were the proverbial fly on the wall, watching history unfold.
Singer also excels at highlighting Mercury's struggles. He was a man always hopping between two diametric worlds, whether he was dealing with the expectations of his traditional Indian immigrant family and the seductions of Western culture, the yearnings of his sexuality against a society still resistant at accepting out-and-proud gay culture, or the demands of record industry producers to have him venture off on solo projects to the detriment of the bandmates that became his second family.
By the end, when Mercury takes the stage to perform at Live Aid, you're hearing Queen's classics from a new perspective, with the artist facing his mortality, giving new meaning to the lyrics of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We are the Champions."
If you can, try to revel in the moment as though you are one of the countless swarms serving as a conduit to Queen's open flow of triumphant musical spirit, connecting everyone across the stadium, and even the world, in a tightly-stitched fabric, and reaching upward into the heavens above.
RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.